Tennis: Courtside with Japanese player Taro Daniel

Japan's Taro Daniel competes in a men's doubles match at the ATP Singapore Tennis Open at the OCBC Arena, on Feb 23, 2021.
Japan's Taro Daniel competes in a men's doubles match at the ATP Singapore Tennis Open at the OCBC Arena, on Feb 23, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Q: Favourite tennis memory from your career so far?

A: When I beat (Novak) Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2018. It was a very fun match because it was a full stadium on one of the biggest courts in the world, think there were about 15,000 people and a lot of them were cheering for me so that was really fun. I think he was not playing well as he just came back from surgery. I've got to give myself a lot of credit for that and that's a win that will stay in my mind for a long time.

Q Which shot from which player would you like to have?

A: Ivo Karlovic's serve or John Isner's serve. Because I would be able to hold my serve a lot easier which would help me a lot. I struggle too much for someone who's 190cm tall. I can keep improving on it and a good serve would be big difference.

Q: Tennis player you haven't met whom you would like to play against?

A: Roger Federer. I've played every single modern-time legend like Djokovic, (Rafael) Nadal, (Andy) Murray, (Juan Martin) del Potro and (Stanislas) Wawrinka. So Roger is the only one I haven't played and time is running out, so that's on my bucket list.

Q: If you weren't a tennis player, which sport would you play?

A: I would like to be a race driver like in Formula One. I got inspired a lot after watching the documentary on Netflix (Formula 1: Drive to Survive). I really like the danger, like when you're driving something so quickly, you're fighting death every single race. Of course, these days racing is a lot safer than it used to be. Also in that show, you see the business of F1 and I think tennis also has a lot of these interesting backstories which would be interesting for the public to know, that's why I got inspired by it quite a bit. Seeing how these drivers carry themselves is very inspiring also because they're very charismatic.

Q: Who has been the biggest inspiration to you?

A: My parents. It's a cheesy answer but they're always the ones backing me without giving me too much pressure. They were always behind me becoming a professional player and I always felt that they would be with me no matter where I go so they're definitely my biggest inspirations and hopefully I can be theirs too.

Q: Who's an athlete you admire?

A: Michael Jordan, also from the Netflix show (The Last Dance). Whenever they do documentaries like that and make the athlete look so cool in their way of approaching the game. It shows how crazy they are for the sport, especially Michael Jordan. Before the show I only knew he was a great athletic guy, I never knew how he approached the game and how precise he was and how much attention to detail he had. Now I'm ranked world No. 120 and I want to get to the top 100, top 50 and top 10. To do so, you really need to keep being super precise about things.

Q: What song gets you pumped before a match?

A: I love Led Zeppelin and I love the song When the Levee Breaks by them. I really like that they're a rock band but they get a lot of influences from the blues from the 50s, from African-Americans of the 50s, 40s, 30s and they mix that with hard rock. This combination for me is really cool.