More Sports / Tennis

Taro Daniel triumphs in Istanbul for first ATP title

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Taro Daniel claimed his first ATP World Tour title Sunday after defeating Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri in straight sets to win the Istanbul Open.

Daniel beat Jaziri 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to win the ATP World Tour 250-level clay-court tournament at Garanti Koza Arena and cap off the best week of his career. The 25-year-old jumped 32 spots in the ATP rankings to a career-high No. 82 with the maiden victory.

“It was an incredible week. There was a little luck on my end (in the final),” Daniel said. “I’m obviously pretty surprised that I suddenly won an ATP (World Tour title). But I guess things like this happen.”

Daniel held two match points while leading 5-3 in the second set and double-faulted on a third, but sealed the victory against the No. 62 Tunisian in 2 hours, 22 minutes after nailing a backhand winner down the line.

“I think today was a great match, a lot of long rallies from the beginning until the end,” said Daniel, who was born in New York, grew up in Japan, and trained in Spain.

“I was feeling pretty nervous before the match,” he said. “I was nervous, but I told myself, ‘I’m sure he’s more nervous than me.’ So that helped.”

The Tokyo resident, who had never reached an ATP World Tour semifinal before this week, earned his first win against a top-20 player in March when he defeated five-time BNP Paribas Open champion Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells.

In the doubles final, the top-seeded Japan-U.S. team of Ben McLachlan and Nicholas Monroe was defeated by British-Swedish duo Dominic Inglot and Robert Lindstedt 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.

McLachlan, a New Zealand-born player whose mother is Japanese, was looking to earn his second ATP World Tour doubles title after claiming his first in Tokyo last season.

Osaka ousted in Madrid

Naomi Osaka was knocked out of the Madrid Open women’s singles after losing to China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round on Sunday.

The 20-year-old, who was beaten in the third round at last month’s Charleston Open, looked underwhelming in the 6-1, 7-5 straight-sets defeat against her 28th-ranked opponent in a quick 1 hour and 24 minutes at Madrid’s Caja Magica.

Osaka, ranked at a career-high No. 21 since claiming her first WTA title at Indian Wells in March, said she wasn’t angry at the loss and considered it a lesson-learning match in her bid to improve on clay ahead of the May 27-June 10 French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year.

In other matches, former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka earned her first win on clay in two years with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Serbian Aleksandra Krunic in the first round.

“It’s my first match in, I don’t know, two years or whatever on clay. So that’s definitely not easy. But I’m happy that I could find a way to win, produce some good tennis at the moment,” Azarenka said courtside.

“There is definitely a lot of things that I can improve. But it’s a start.”

Azarenka will be joined in the second round by current world No. 1 and defending champion Simona Halep, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, all of whom comfortably won their opening round encounters.

Top seed Halep made quick work of Ekaterina Makarova, beating the Russian 6-1, 6-0, while Wozniacki was almost as dominant in her 6-3, 6-1 win over Australian Daria Gavrilova.

Muguruza, the 2016 French Open winner and reigning Wimbledon champion, ousted China’s Peng Shuai with a 6-4, 6-2 and will be aiming to progress past the second round of her home tournament for the first time.

In the men’s singles, Kei Nishikori was scheduled face two-time Madrid Open champion Novak Djokovic in the first round on Monday, while his compatriot Yuichi Sugita takes on Philipp Kohlschreiber on Tuesday.