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Japan's Taro Daniel Plays To His Own Tune

Viña del Mar, Chile

Daniel© Royal Guard Open/César PincheiraTaro Daniel is making his ATP World Tour debut this week in Vina del Mar.

Taro Daniel is Japanese, but was born in New York. He also speaks perfect Spanish because he lives and practises in Valencia, Spain, so unlike most Japanese players, he loves clay courts.

The 21 year old, who qualified for his first ATP World Tour event at the Royal Guard Open Chile and won his first tour-level match by beating former champion Thomaz Bellucci, is a Led Zeppelin fan and would love to have lived in the ‘70s.

“When I was nine there was a Japanese TV series that ended with a Queen song,” says Daniel, currently No. 226 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. “Then I started to listen more of their music and began to know more classic rock bands, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Now I’m obsessed with that rock.”

How does a Japanese player, born in New York, compete well on clay courts, win his first ATP World Tour match in South America and give interviews in Spanish?
I'm pretty international. I was born in the U.S., my father is American and has a job that made us travel around the world. We had the chance to go to Spain and that was great for me to practise at a higher level. That’s when I got to play more on clay-courts and the reason why I play better on that surface than most of the other Japanese players.

How did you begin in tennis?
Like most kids, who have parents that want their children to play tennis. At the beginning I didn’t like it too much, but I began to get better and finally it turned into a passion.

Tennis players from the ‘70s loved rock and played guitar. Would you have liked to live in those years?
I read a book about (John) McEnroe where he said he played some guitar and he got the chance to perform in front of a lot a people. I would’ve loved to live in those times and meet the bands and rock stars.

And play with a wooden raquet?
Haha, I don’t know! I tried it once, it was strange, so I don’t know if I would be able to do it every day, especially on faster courts.

What similarities do you see between Jimmy Page and Roger Federer?
They are both very classy. It’s hard to compare them, but one of them, in tennis, I really admire him. And the other one, in music, is also my idol! They are genius.

What are your expectations for your career?
I don’t have any because your head can get lost in places it shouldn’t. I just try to enjoy the moment, work hard and I’m sure I’ll go up if I do the correct work.

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