Fresh off the back of a first PDC title win in five years, Stephen Bunting heads to the World Matchplay in Blackpool full of confidence and eager to claim a maiden PDC television major.

It was almost not to be though for the Bullet. However, a superb opening day win at the recent Super Series in Coventry all but cemented his qualification for the tournament and a welcomed return to the Winter Gardens.

Speaking on that epic four day event, Bunting said: “It’s always difficult going into the last week before the cut off to try and qualify for a major tournament. In my mind, I needed to win around £4000-5000 to break into the Matchplay.

“So I went to the Ricoh Arena literally thinking about winning my board each day knowing if I could do that, I’d have a decent chance of making the cut.

“But to go all the way on day one was massive. Of course it was all about getting to the Winter Gardens again but to win my first PDC title since 2016 was a special feeling.”

After reaching the last eight in the World Matchplay in 2019, it means Bunting is defending the £25k purse he picked up that year.

He added: “To be honest, I don’t really look at that. Even when I was playing bad, I didn’t seem to drop down the rankings that much – maybe I wasn’t performing as poorly as I thought! But I don’t generally look at what I’m defending as it puts too much pressure on me.”

The first round draw has pitted The Bullet against former World Matchplay Champion, Gary Anderson. It will be the third time the pair have met on the Winter Gardens stage and Bunting is yet to get the better of the Scot.

Looking ahead to the match, the Liverpudlian said: “I’m very excited about playing Gary again there. He has won on both occasions we’ve met in Blackpool so I’ll be hoping to stop the hatrick. Gary plays at my pace and without any shenanigans so it should be a very good game.

“But I’m really looking forward to it. The last time I was at Blackpool, I enjoyed a good run the quarter-finals. I’m playing more consistent now and found some good form off the back of reaching the World Championship semi-final and the title last week.

“I’m there to win – not to make the numbers up. My confidence is right up and I am enjoying my darts. My aim now is to win a PDC major – hopefully it will be at this event.

Stephen will face Gary Anderson on Monday night in the last match of the evening. Expected start time is approximately 10pm.

You watch all of the action live on Sky Sports. Full schedule below.

2021 Betfred World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Saturday July 17 (1900 BST)
4x First Round
Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
Jonny Clayton v Dirk van Duijvenbode
Gerwyn Price v Jermaine Wattimena
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Devon Petersen

Sunday July 18
Afternoon Session (1300 BST)
4x First Round
Krzysztof Ratajski v Brendan Dolan
Glen Durrant v Callan Rydz
Rob Cross v Ross Smith
James Wade v Luke Humphries

Evening Session (1930 BST)
4x First Round
Joe Cullen v Chris Dobey
Michael Smith v Ryan Searle
Peter Wright v Danny Noppert
Jose de Sousa v Gabriel Clemens

Monday July 19 (1900 BST)
4x First Round
Daryl Gurney v Ian White
Nathan Aspinall v Mervyn King
Michael van Gerwen v Damon Heta
Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting

Tuesday July 20 (1900 BST)
4x Second Round
Cross/R Smith v Durrant/Rydz
Wade/Humphries v Ratajski/Dolan
Price/Wattimena v Clayton/Van Duijvenbode
Van den Bergh/Petersen v Chisnall/Van der Voort

Wednesday July 21 (1900 BST)
4x Second Round
M Smith/Searle v De Sousa/Clemens
Anderson/Bunting v Aspinall/King
Van Gerwen/Heta v Gurney/White
Wright/Noppert v Cullen/Dobey

Thursday July 22 (1900 BST)
2x Quarter-Finals

Friday July 23 (1900 BST)
2x Quarter-Finals

Saturday July 24 (1900 BST)

Sunday July 25 (2030 BST)

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