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Daniell targets big final year

Readjusting to the physical demands of professional tennis has been the biggest challenge for Wairarapa tennis star Marcus Daniell since his return from serious knee injuries.

After a two-year hiatus, the Tokyo Olympics doubles bronze medallist was back on court late last year and has his sights set on a strong finish to his professional career at major tournaments, including the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as an attempt at winning a second Olympic medal.

Daniell resumed tournament play in December, combining with fellow Kiwi Finn Reynolds to win tournaments in Wellington and Papamoa. He then suffered first-round losses in Brisbane, Auckland and at the Australian Open in Melbourne, followed by a narrow defeat in the doubles in the Davis Cup loss to Turkey.

Although the knee has come through the rigours of tournament play in surprisingly good shape, Daniell reckoned, “the rest of the body is still adjusting.”

“I’d forgotten just how intense the toll is on your joints, and my wrist and back are giving me a bit of grief. But that’s just part of the deal as a pro tennis player.”

Despite the long layoff, the 34-year-old has been disappointed with his results, but he felt there have been some encouraging signs.

“The fact that I’ve been two or three points away in almost every match since starting on tour again is a positive sign, even if it’s devastating to experience,” he said.

“Two years is a long time to be away from high-level tennis, and I need to temper my expectations of how quickly I can get back to my best level.”

Daniell partnered Brazilian Marcelo Demoliner in a narrow first-round loss, in a super tiebreaker, to Australians John Millman and Edward Winter in front of a vociferous home crowd at Melbourne, but he said that was likely to be a one-off pairing, and he would focus on finding partners he can get into the biggest tournaments with for the rest of the year.

Making it to Paris for his second Olympics, though, will rest solely on his Tokyo teammate Michael Venus remaining in the top 30 of the doubles rankings, as “I won’t be able to improve on my protected ranking of 56 in the short time before the cutoff,” Daniell said.

The next step in the Olympic build-up for the doubles specialist is some key US tournaments before he heads to Europe.

“I’m aiming to play a big challenger [tournament] in Phoenix next month, hopefully followed by Miami Masters. Then it’s on to the clay, where I’m not going to use many of my Protected Ranking entries as it’s my least favourite surface. I’ll play the French Open, then try to play a full grass-court season leading into Wimbledon.”

Daniell intends to use one Protected Ranking entry for the US Open before retiring for good at the 2025 ASB Classic in Auckland, the venue for his first ATP victory with Romania’s Horia Tecau in 2010.

As well as playing for glory on the court, Daniell hopes to make it a big year for High Impact Athletes, the organisation he founded in 2020 to encourage fellow sports professionals to donate a percentage of their winnings.

He has pledged to donate 50 per cent of his winnings from his final year on tour to high-impact charities aimed at combating the climate crisis, alleviating extreme poverty and improving animal welfare.

In partnership with Momentum, an AI-driven fundraising platform, Daniell has also introduced an innovative way for fans to contribute, enabling donations tied to his on-court performance throughout the season, and he hopes that will garner support from the close-knit Wairarapa tennis community.

By pledging 10 cents for each point, fans can expect to donate about $100 by the end of the year across Daniell’s 10 events.

The fundraising campaign has already raised over US$20,000 for the world’s best charities, and Daniell is “pumped with how it’s started and would love to keep it growing and evolving.”

To sign up, visit highimpactathletes.org/backwithimpact

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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