Misc Tennis

Unseeded Taro Daniel def. top-seeded Ben Shelton in Auckland Classic semifinals

Unseeded Taro Daniel def. top-seeded Ben Shelton in Auckland Classic semifinals

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Top-seeded American Ben Shelton has been knocked out of the ATP Auckland Classic in the semifinals Friday by unseeded Taro Daniel, who reached his second career final six years after the first.

Daniel won 7-5, 7-6 (9).

The 16th-ranked Shelton had looked unstoppable as all but one other seeded player was eliminated after the quarterfinals. Second-seeded British player Cameron Norrie withdrew before the quarterfinals with a wrist injury.

The last seed lost in the second semifinal Friday when sixth-seeded Arthur Fils of France was beaten 6-2, 7-5 by Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo.

Tabilo defied his ranking of 84 to battle his way through two qualifying rounds and three main draw matches to also reach his second career final. He was due to play Norrie in the quarterfinals but went straight to the semis when Norrie withdrew.

Daniel also played well above his ranking of 74 Friday to beat Shelton in straight sets.

Shelton saved two match points and Daniel two set points before Daniel converted his third match point, ending the match after two hours, five minutes.

“It’s always difficult to play against Ben because he doesn’t give you too much rhythm and the ball’s really alive,” Daniel said. “It’s really about who can put on a little bit more pressure and that tiebreaker was such a dogfight.”

Daniel had been in two minds about playing in Auckland this year after losing in qualifying last year to the world’s 470th-ranked player.

“My relationship with this place is super interesting,” he said. “I was trying to avoid coming here and now I’m having one of my best weeks ever. Funny how things work out when you give it another chance.”

Tabilo swept through his first set against Fils with two service breaks. He then came from 5-2 down in the second set to level at 5-5 and to serve for the match at 6-5.

The final game lasted 17 minutes and Fils saved three match points before Tabilo finally broke through.

“It’s been almost two years since I was able to get to a final and I also came from the qualies then,” Tabilo said. “I’ve seen Arthur play a lot on tour.

“He’s very intense, big hitter, so I knew I had to come out swinging, be very intense and make him play every ball.”

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