After Stephen Bunting and Dave Chisnall recorded impressive quarter-final victories, the duo from St Helens are beginning to dream of World Championship glory.
‘The Bullet’ outlasted Krzysztof Ratajski in a nail-biter, to reach the last four for the first time in his career, while Chizzy smashed Michael van Gerwen in a whitewash victory.
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“The best win of my career,” beamed Bunting. “A few years ago, I could have walked away from the sport,” he said.
“I was world number one for two years in the BDO, and I was the best player in the world on that side.
“You come over, you start getting a few defeats, and it dents your confidence. You don’t really feel it for the first few years. Obviously you’re playing in the Premier League, which was massive for me. But then to come out of the Premier League, and the lows after that, it affected me big-time. It was hard to take.
“I feel now, I could be world champion again. It’s a crazy scenario.
“I’ve worked hard, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen sports psychologists. I’ve done everything I could possibly do. I’ve got a great support network behind me.
“I didn’t believe I’d play darts again. I was locking myself away and feeling so low. Many, many tears, talking to family and stuff. I fell out of love with the sport. Now, I love the sport again, I love the practice, and who knows where the sport can take me?
“I’m a bit like Jurgen Klopp, to be honest. I’m the normal person. I’m the normal one. I’d love to win this title. It would mean the world to me.”
The St Helens thrower has got it right on and off the board, and it’s paying dividends on the oche.
He averaged 101 in the quarter-final, hit a 170 checkout and went 19/36 on finishes.
“I never give in. Never say die. That’s a big difference in me this year,” he explained.
“I’m dangerous. I’m in the semi-finals. Who’s to say I can’t win it?
“I’ve been working relentlessly at home. I’ve been trying to get my form back. I’ve switched to these new darts and they feel incredible.
“I sat down with Target. We developed this new dart. I believe these are the darts that are going to take me to the next level. On the practice board, I’m phenomenal with them. I’m hitting a lot of 180s, the big finishes.”
I can re-write history here. I can win this. I know I’m good enough.
Bunting is optimistic
Not many would have predicted Bunting would still be standing at the semi-final stage, but he is far from overwhelmed amongst esteemed company.
“I’m coming in quiet, under the radar,” he said.
“I’ve looked at the bookies’ odds [before the quarter-finals]. I was the total outsider for the whole event, which was great for me. I know I’m playing well, I know what I can do. Let people write me off at their own peril, because I’m here to win this. I’m not here to make the numbers up.
“I’ll be the outsider again. I’m there to win this. They’re great players in their own right, but I can re-write history here. I can win this. I know I’m good enough.”
Price gunning for world number one spot
Bunting will face Gerwyn Price, hot on the heels of a first World Championship crown and the world number one spot.
The bullish Welshman feels his has room to improve, after weathering a Daryl Gurney comeback.
“I don’t think he came back. I just went off the boil and stopped playing. I was overthinking and wanted it too much. I was rubbish the last three sets and I was lucky to get over the winning line,” said the Iceman.
“But I’m still in the tournament. I’ve got a big semi-final and I’m going to give it my all. The last semi-final I was in, I messed it up, and didn’t know if I was going to get back and have a chance at another semi-final. But I’m there tomorrow and I’ll be firing on all guns.
“It’s going to be a different me to what it was last year in the semi-final. Hopefully I can reach a final, get number two [in the Order of Merit] and have a chance of getting number one!
“It’s going to be a tough game. Stephen has got some new darts and they look like they’re going well for him. But I’ve had these darts for six years so they’re going well for me!”
Can Chizzy back it up?
Four of the last five times Michael van Gerwen was beaten in the World Championship, his victor went on to claim the trophy.
Can Chisnall return to the heights of his stunning victory on Friday night?
The Englishman is no stranger to causing a seismic shock at the Ally Pally, having beaten Phil Taylor 4-1 in 2012. On that occasion, he failed to back it up, suffering a 0-4 defeat to Andy Hamilton in the following round.
But fast-forward nine years and Dave Chisnall is a much-improved player. Granted, no major PDC title has followed, but why can that not change this week?
The former Premier League star has steadily improved game on game, upsetting Dimitri Van den Bergh and MVG.
Can he reach the final? An in-form Gary Anderson stands in his way.
Is Anderson back to his best?
The Flying Scotsman has been adamant that this campaign is a shot-to-nothing for him, and that he will be targeting a return to his top form during 2021.
“That was good. The 180s are not quite there, but the 140s, I felt they were good,” he said after his 5-1 win over Dirk van Duijvenbode.
“I’ve always said, I just want this year done. Next year, bang on it. It’s back to the board. Ryan Searle lives 40 minutes up the road, we’re going to start banging heads, two, three, four times a week, just to get both our heads back.
“Not yet [back to my best]. Not quite yet. It’s getting there.”
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