Japan's Daniel closes on main draw and targets top 100

  • Matt Trollope

Japan’s Taro Daniel moved to within one win of the Australian Open 2021 main draw following a straight-sets win over Maximilian Marterer on Tuesday in qualifying.

The fifth seed accounted for the former world No.45 6-3 6-4 to set up a final-round clash with Swede Elias Ymer. 

Top seed Gregoire Barrere beat fellow Frenchman Maxime Janvier 6-2 4-6 6-1, while No.2 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia was another victor thanks to a 6-4 7-6(6) triumph over Australia's Andrew Harris.

Dellien goes on to face Spanish 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, the world No.141, who beat Evgeny Karlovskiy 7-6(1) 7-6(4).

LIVE STREAMING: Australian Open 2021 qualifying

For Daniel, not only would a victory over Ymer secure a spot in his fourth AO main draw, but it would put him on the path toward a top 100 return.

The former world No.64 felt this would boost his chances of potential Olympic qualification at the Tokyo Games later in 2021.

"You never know what's going to happen tomorrow, so (my priority is) just kind of staying healthy, keep enjoying, and try and not lose any money,” he laughed. 

“But results wise, obviously I want to get back into the top 100, that's like my first step. Just take it tournament by tournament and keep raising my level.

“It's a really difficult situation right now, obviously we never know (what will happen) with the vaccines and when they're going to roll out. I've just got to keep playing week by week, and I think if I can get back into top 100, then I will make the Olympics.

“So it's kind of the same goal, I guess.”

Daniel hit his peak ranking in 2018 in a year that featured a win over Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells and his first ATP title in Istanbul. 

Yet like so often happens, he struggled in the aftermath of that breakthrough season. 

"I struggled a bit mentally with my expectations,” he admitted. 

“The year after I was expecting everything to go very smoothly on the Challenger Tour and that really wasn't the case. I was still able to produce some good results at the tour events but I struggled a lot in the Challengers, to consistently beat the guys that are lower ranked. 

“I've been kind of learning to manage my expectations. I know I can be a lot higher, but I know it takes a long time as well to get back in there. 

“I'm definitely not ashamed of where I am right now; I think the players here (in qualifying) are really good, and I know I'll get there when I get there.”

Tomic, Smith fly Aussie flag

Another player aiming to return to former heights is Bernard Tomic, the former world No.17 who was one of two Aussie winners on Tuesday in Doha.

The Queenslander, currently ranked 228th, saved a match point on his way to beating countryman Tristan Schoolkate 6-4 1-6 7-6[10-3].

He progressed to the final round of qualifying where he will meet fellow Queenslander John-Patrick Smith, who recovered to beat Tallon Griekspoor 2-6 6-3 6-4.

“I thought I was done,” Tomic admitted when facing match point. “The third (set) was high-level tennis from both of us. I should have lost that third set.

“Today was lucky.”

As Tomic and Smith set up a clash to ensure at least one Australian would seal their place in the AO 2021 main draw, countrymen Harris, Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler all departed the event on Tuesday.

Another, Max Purcell, was still completing his second-round match under lights in Doha; the AO 2020 doubles finalist faced the in-form Karatsev. 

Crafting a comeback

Tomic is not the only player seeking to build momentum in Doha and restore a ranking which has slipped outside the top 100.

While not as many as in the women’s qualifying draw, there were nonetheless five former ATP top-40 players in action on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Errani, Schmiedlova lead stars into final round

One-time world No.12 Viktor Troicki progressed to the final round with a 7-5 6-3 win over American Ulises Blanch, while another winner was Damir Dzumhur, the former world No.23 who thumped Julian Lenz 6-2 6-2 in exactly one hour. 

Former world No.31 Sergiy Stakhovsky saw off Kubler in straight sets while Dutchman Robin Haase, once ranked as high as No.33, beat Gian Marco Moroni 6-4 7-5.