The 30-year-old Taro Daniel scored his first top-10 victory at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco. The Japanese survived two match points on serve at 5-6 in the decider before ousting Casper Ruud 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 in two hours and 57 minutes!
Interestingly, Daniel’s first notable victory came in Indian Wells 2018 after beating five-time champion Novak Djokovic. However, Novak was not a top-10 player at that moment after missing the second part of 2017 due to an elbow injury
Daniel qualified for the main draw and entered his second Masters 1000 event as world no. 109. Taro passed the opening round and faced Novak in the second. The Japanese scored a 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 30 minutes for a career-best victory.
Daniel admitted that Djokovic was not at his best but still cherished the win significantly. It was Novak’s first encounter since the Australian Open, and he looked tired as the match progressed.
Taro Daniel defeated Novak Djokovic when the Serb was ranked outside top-10.
He failed to impose his strokes and made over 60 unforced errors, especially from his backhand.
Djokovic led 5-2 in the opener but could not bring it home. Daniel bounced back and claimed it in the tie break for a massive boost. Novak made a fresh start in the second set and grabbed it 6-2 to force a decider. Djokovic lost the ground again and got broken in games four and six to hit the exit door and push the rival into the next round.
Five years later, Taro celebrated a “proper” top-10 win in Mexico, enduring all the efforts against the struggling Norwegian to enter the quarter-final. It was Daniel’s ninth match against the top-10 rivals and his first victory, surviving in the decider and sealing the deal in the tie break.
They both won 98 points and had their chances to score a win. Casper led 3-0 in the opener and had an opportunity to build another lead in game eight. Taro saved two break points to stay in touch and broke a better-ranked opponent in game 11.
The Japanese held at love at 6-5 to seal the opener after 64 minutes. Ruud took charge in set number two and dominated on serve and return. Casper broke Taro twice in a row to clinch the set 6-2 and become the favorite ahead of the decider.
Both players served well in the final set until 6-5 for the Norwegian. The Japanese saved two match points on serve in game 12 and denied them to introduce a tie break. They were locked at 5-5 when Ruud missed a routine forehand and offered his rival a match point.
A two-time Major finalist netted a forehand at 5-6 to hand the victory to Daniel, his first against the top-10 opponents.