Daniel Creates Japanese History 47 Years In The Making
Japanese set to face friend Millman on Friday
The 47-year drought is over.
Japan’s Taro Daniel battled past Aussie Jordan Thompson 6-4, 7-6(3) on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, joining countryman Yasutaka Uchiyama. This is the first time since 1972 that two Japanese players have made the last eight in Tokyo.
"I was a little bit more nervous for this match than the first match because obviously after having a big win in the first round, everyone was starting to expect me to win the second round, maybe," Daniel said. "Also, I was expecting myself to maybe do that. But I was able to accept that pretty well and played pretty well today."
In 1972, the last time there were at least two Japanese quarter-finalists here (Toshiro Sakai, Jun Kuki), there were 18 players from the home country in the draw. This year, there were five.
Entering this week, the wild card had never won a match in Tokyo, having lost on his first four attempts at this ATP 500 tournament. In each of the past three years, Daniel did not win more than four games in a set.
But the World No. 127 has found his form at Ariake Tennis Park, losing only four first-serve points (32/36) and going through both sets against the Aussie without facing a break point to triumph after one hour and 38 minutes.
In the pair’s only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting — earlier this year in Sydney — Thompson rallied to win a second-set tie-break before storming through a 6-0 deciding set. But in Japan, Daniel was the steadier of the two players, throwing his hands up in celebration after Thompson smothered a final forehand into the net.
"It was the exact same match, just that he won that second-set tie-break and really started getting the momentum in the third [in Sydney]," Daniel said. "But I think this time the tennis momentum was a bit more on my side. I was playing a little bit better than him. My serve was really popping today and that made a huge difference. I think it made him pretty uncomfortable. It made him make a few unforced errors."
Daniel is into an ATP Tour quarter-final for the first time since May, when he reached the last eight in Geneva. This is his first trip to the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event.
The 2018 Istanbul champion will try to keep his big run alive when he faces Aussie John Millman, who defeated South African Lloyd Harris 6-3, 6-2.
Did You Know?
There has been a Japanese quarter-finalist in Tokyo in seven of the past eight years, with the only exception being 2016.