Taro Daniel made plenty of headlines earlier this year when he qualified and made the third round at the Australian Open, defeating Andy Murray. Plenty of that came from a much-improved serve, which generated a lot more free points and a higher ace rate.
“I definitely changed my approach towards my service game in the last year. It was a part of the game that was very untapped. I always wanted to have a better serve, but I didn’t know how to quite improve it. It’s not like my technique was bad or anything, it was just I think more my approach, how to approach my service game. So that’s been my main focus technically in the last year, a lot of emphasis on that” said the Japanese following his win over Riccardo Bonadio in the first round at the Braunschweig Challenger.
ATP Tour focused schedule, still ranked outside the top 100
Despite some awesome results at the beginning of the year, Daniel still sits at a rather modest 118th in the ATP Rankings. “I was like top 50, top 60 in the ATP Race until May, now I’m still top 90 in the Race and still 120 in the rankings. Last year I played really good until June and then after that, you know with Olympics and everything, I didn’t have a great second half of the year, so that’s also why all the points were coming off. With these things you just have to accept it, sometimes it’s unfair and sometimes you get the good side of it as well.”
His schedule this year has consisted mostly of ATP Tour qualifying events. He’s had a great success rate in these competitions, making it through to the main draw on 7 out of 9 occasions. “My focus is still to play more ATPs. Sometimes it’s difficult to plan them, especially around Wimbledon because the cuts were so tough, so I wanted to make sure to play this week, that’s why I’m playing Challenger. But my general focus is to try and play more ATPs, I’m not really into chasing points anymore. I’m looking for that level, I know I can beat some of the better players and these tournaments definitely help to keep building my game as well.”
On Wednesday, Daniel will face either Juan Pablo Varillas or Yannick Hanfmann. Either should prove to be a tougher test than Bonadio, who despite finishing runner-up at Bratislava recently was fended off with relative ease by the 29-year-old. The improved serve came in handy again with Daniel blasting six aces and saving all three break points faced.
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