What a difference a week can make.
On arrival in Auckland, Chilean Alejandro Tabilo had to play in the qualifying tournament to secure his place in the ASB Classic proper.
But on Centre Court at Stanley St on Saturday afternoon, he lifted the first title of his career.
Tabilo beat Japanese counterpart Taro Daniel 6-2 7-5 in 1hr v38min, a match-up that might just as well have taken place in the second round of qualification - Daniel also due to play in the qualifying rounds but securing a place in the main draw as an alternate.
“It honestly feels surreal right now,” Tabilo said on the broadcast after his win.
“I honestly never thought we were going to be here in the final. Even my coach, we didn’t have the visa so in the quarters, we applied for it and it just came yesterday and he made the trip from Melbourne because he was waiting for me in Australia.
“It’s a crazy story.”
It was a final no one would have predicted when the draw was finalised, with world no 74 Daniel having to go through eighth-seed Max Purcell (world No 45) in the round of 16 and top seed Ben Shelton (world No 16) in the semifinals, but Daniel made his way to the final having only dropped one set – a tiebreak against Alexandre Muller in the quarter-finals.
Taro Daniel beat top seed Ben Shelton to progress into the final. Photo / Dean Purcell
Tabilo benefitted from an injury to second seed and world No 19 Cam Norrie in their quarter-final, but earned his spot in the final with an impressive display to beat sixth seed Arthur Fils in the semifinals – coincidentally by the exact same scoreline as his win in the final.
Like Daniel, Tabilo had dropped just one set coming into the final – going down 6-1 in his very first set in the main draw before brushing off early jitters – and made the most of a strong service game to claim the final.
Both men looked sound on serve in the opening stages, however, it wasn’t long before Daniel started to struggle with his first serve.
Ahead 3-2 in the opening set, Tabilo earned three break points and capitalised with the third. He broke the Daniel serve again to cap off the set – winning five games on the trot to take the opening set in just 35 minutes.
It took Daniel until the second set to even earn a break point against the Tabilo serve, but couldn’t cash in.
Alejandro Tabilo dropped just one set on his way to winning the ASB Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell
That set the tone for the rest of the set. Daniel had settled in on serve with some relatively easy holds, and was testing Tabilo’s serve – the Chilean’s first serve percentage rate dropping from 77 in the first to just 55 in the second.
But even when it looked like Daniel was starting to turn the match, Tabilo always limited his rival to single break points; Daniel against having an opportunity in both the third and seventh games thwarted.
Tabilo didn’t earn another break point until the final game of the match, needing just one to claim the first title of his career.
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.
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