Daniel Shocks Ruud In Acapulco

  • Posted: Mar 02, 2023

Daniel Shocks Ruud In Acapulco

Japanese qualifier will next play De Minaur

It was a night Taro Daniel will never forget.

After Casper Ruud hit a final forehand into the net on the centre court of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado for HSBC, the 30-year-old Japanese player fell to his knees and held his arms out in celebration. The qualifier had saved two match points en route to ousting World No. 4 Ruud 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(5) after two hours and 58 minutes to reach the quarter-finals in Acapulco.

“I think every time these victories feel more like my own. The first time I beat Djokovic, it felt a little bit like he was not playing very well,” Daniel said. “But this time I felt like I was really playing against Casper at a high level. I mean obviously he’s still coming back, he’s a bit rusty and all that. But still, I had to win it.

“It was a very physical battle, great atmosphere, so happy.”

Entering the match, Daniel had upset then-World No. 13 Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2018, but had never earned a win against a Top 10 opponent (previously 0-8). The New York-born righty will face eighth seed Alex de Minaur for a place in the semi-finals. 

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Ruud, who before the week had not played since losing in the second round of the Australian Open, never found the rhythm that he did so consistently on hard courts last year. His heavy forehand, which is typically a reliable weapon, proved not to be in Mexico, contributing to the 46 unforced errors he made in the match.

But some of that was because Daniel played fearless tennis and was willing to take the action to his opponent. Even so, the Norwegian earned two match points on the Japanese player’s serve at 5-6 in the third set.

On the second seed’s first opportunity, Daniel hit a Ruud-like inside-out forehand, which the favourite was unable to slice into the court. Later in the game, Ruud mishit a backhand return well out. The qualifier took full advantage of his second life in the match by playing a composed tie-break.

“I’ve always really loved playing here, but I kind of struggled with the conditions because it’s so hot,” Daniel said. “But I think I’ve been working really hard on my fitness and also my mental skills in order to cope with the humidity and cope with the suffering of the physical side of it. It’s definitely paying off and to be able to beat a guy like this, it definitely shows.”

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De Minaur’s victory had far less drama. The Australian ousted Italian qualifier Jacopo Berrettini, the younger brother of Matteo Berrettini, 6-1, 6-0. Jacopo earned his first ATP Tour win Tuesday evening against Oscar Otte.

In other action, Frances Tiafoe defeated wild card Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 7-6(6). The 41-year-old Spaniard Lopez was trying to become the oldest ATP Tour quarter-finalist since 42-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1995 at Halle, but the American did not allow him to claw into a final set.

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