Tennis: Japan's Taro Daniel claims first ATP title

Taro Daniel of Japan in action during the final match against Malek Jaziri of Tunisia at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul open tennis tournament in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 6, 2018.
Taro Daniel of Japan in action during the final match against Malek Jaziri of Tunisia at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul open tennis tournament in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 6, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Taro Daniel claimed "surprise" at securing his first career ATP title with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 defeat of Tunisia's Malek Jaziri in Istanbul on Sunday (May 6).

The 25-year-old Daniel hit the tennis headlines when toppling 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in March.

The thrill of taking that heavyweight scalp - his first win over a top 20 player in the ATP rankings - soon dissipated as he lost four of his next five matches.

But the world No. 114 regained his form in Turkey, advancing for the first time to the semi-finals and maintaining his composure to take the title.

"I was feeling pretty nervous before the match," Daniel, who was born in New York and trained in Spain, said.

"I was nervous, but I told myself, 'I'm sure he's more nervous than me'. So that helped. When I started not badly... I started to calm down a bit more.

"I'm obviously pretty surprised that I suddenly won an ATP (title). But I guess things like this happen."

His moment of glory was not without its anxious moments.

He let slip two match points at 5-3 on the Tunisian's serve, then double faulted on his third match point but sealed the landmark success with a backhand winner down the line at the fourth opportunity to earn the title.

The win is expected to lift him up to No. 82 in the latest ATP rankings published on Monday.