Marcus Daniell, in action at the Citi Open in Washington DC, narrowly missed the semifinals with new partner Denis Kudla at the Melbourne ATP 250 tournament. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

TENNIS

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Wairarapa tennis star Marcus Daniell and scratch partner American Denis Kudla continue their build up for the Australian Open this week in Sydney, after an encouraging performance at the Melbourne ATP 250 tournament.

The Tokyo Olympic bronze medal winner with Michael Venus, was originally scheduled to play the Australian Open and the build-up tournaments with regular partner Marcelo Demoliner only for the Brazilian to withdraw with a knee injury.

Daniell then joined up with Kudla and exceeded expectations in Melbourne, narrowly missing the semifinals. They eventually bowed out to Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis and Ukraine’s Denys Molchanov in a super tiebreaker 2-6 7-6[5] 10-8 in an enthralling quarterfinal.

The unseeded duo dominated the opening set and had chances to break serve at 4-4 in the second set but couldn’t get over the line. They led the first to 10-point tiebreaker 8-5 before dropping the next five points to lose the match.

The loss came after outstanding wins in the opening two rounds, including a stunning upset of the fifth seeds. The first was a 7-6[4] 6-3 defeat of American superstars, giant 2.11m Reilly Opelka, who was second seed in the singles after Rafael Nadal, and Mackenzie McDonald – the 2021 Comeback Player of the Year.

In the second round, Daniell and Kudla came from a set down to upset fifth seeds Ken Skupski and Dominic Inglot from Britain. After narrowly losing the first set 4-6 and losing the first game of the second set, the Kiwi-American combination took charge, taking the set 7-4 in a tiebreaker, and dominating the deciding super tiebreaker 10-4, in a match lasting 90 minutes.

By getting to the quarterfinals, Daniell is likely to climb back into the top 50 in the world doubles rankings.

Daniell and Kudla were scheduled to play wildcards Australian Nick Kyrgios and Greek Michail Pervolarakis on Tuesday in the first round of the Sydney Tennis Classic.



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