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Japan's Taro Daniel is projected to rise to a career-best No. 82 in the ATP Rankings after winning his maiden ATP World Tour title in Istanbul.

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Taro Daniel

Japanese thought he'd play qualifying in Estoril, wins maiden title in Istanbul

Taro Daniel arrived at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open having never advanced to an ATP World Tour semi-final. The Japanese right-hander was on the verge of falling short again, trailing 0-4 in the deciding set of his quarter-final. But after an impressive performance Sunday against fellow first-time tour-level finalist Malek Jaziri, Daniel raised his first ATP World Tour trophy. 

Daniel spoke to ATPWorldTour.com after the match about what the victory means to him, how he approached the moment and more.

How does it feel to be holding your first ATP World Tour trophy?
Obviously I’m very happy. But I’m very surprised, mostly. I lost in the first round of a Challenger two weeks ago, so winning an ATP World Tour event is amazing.

Was your goal growing up always to one day win an ATP World Tour trophy?
It’s something I always dreamt of, but I was never the kind of guy to say, ‘Oh, it would be so good to win something’. I just always trusted the process. It’s been a really fun road.

It was the first final for both of you today. What was your mindset and approach and how did you feel when you walked on the court?
I think we were both nervous because it was a great opportunity for us to win our first ATP [World Tour title]. Maybe he was more nervous — he had more to lose than me. I kept telling myself that, because I was nervous. But if he was more nervous, then I could be a little bit more relaxed.

Can you talk about your road to the final? You came down from a break in the third set twice in the semi-finals against Jeremy Chardy and then you also came back in the quarter-finals against Rogerio Dutra Silva.
When I won the first match here against [Matteo] Berrettini, I felt very good. It was a good match, and I felt like I could do something decent here. And then I beat [Aljaz] Bedene really well. I played extremely well in that match and then I had faith to win. I beat Dutra Silva and Chardy in very tough matches, a little bit lucky because I was down in both matches in the third set. But then when you win those, you think anything can happen.

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What did you do best this week? Was it that you came down in matches that you almost lost?
Coming into this tournament was very chaotic because I actually went to Estoril to play qualies and then I ended up coming here at the last minute, so I didn’t have much time to think about anything. That made me play a little bit looser and without much to lose.

You came into the tournament at a season-low in the ATP Rankings and on Monday you’ll crack your career-best, reaching No. 82. Can you talk about that ranking improvement?
’ve been in the Top 100 or 110 the past two and a half years or maybe even three years. So it’s great to finally have a career-high again. When you think about winning an ATP event, I thought I was going to jump a little bit higher. But these 250 points are going to allow me to be patient for results again.

Now that you have reached a new career-high ATP Ranking, do you have any new ranking goals for this season?
It would be great to break into the Top 80, which is something I’ve never done. We’ll see. I never play well when I think about what I want to achieve in terms of rankings or results, so I just want to keep concentrate on my process of improving.

Is there anyone you want to thank for helping you to this moment in your career?
My parents, especially my Dad because he’s the one who got me into tennis. He’s always been there. He never pressured me like maybe some of the other parents, so I’m very thankful for that. And obviously all the coaches that I’ve encountered, but especially the ones now that I’m working with in the Japanese federation.