From qualifying to the crown… Alejandro Tabilo is celebrating a remarkable week.
The 26-year-old Chilean professional tennis player wrapped up the most extraordinary week of his career on Saturday when he emerged from the qualifying rounds to beat Taro Daniel 6-2, 7-5 in the final of ATP Auckland Classic, claiming the first title of his career.
He avoided second-seeded Cameron Norrie in the quarterfinals when Norrie withdrew with a wrist injury and beat sixth-seeded Arthur Fils in the semifinals to reach his second ATP Tour final.
Tabilo then dominated the final, serving 10 aces and keeping Daniel constantly on the defensive with his powerful left-hand forehands.
“It honestly feels surreal,” Tabilo said. “I feel happy and very emotional.
“Even my coach [Guillermo Gomez] didn’t have a visa and we applied in the quarterfinals and we got it yesterday and he came from Melbourne because he was waiting for me in Australia. So crazy, crazy.”
Japanese American Daniel also had an outstanding week as he made his way to a final between unseeded players.
Daniel had only bad memories of the Auckland tournament after being beaten last year in the final round of qualifying in a tournament plagued by rain. His reluctant decision to return this year paid off when he beat top-seeded Ben Shelton in the semifinals to reach his second career final after Istanbul in 2018.
But on Saturday he came up against a player on a roll, hardened by his many matches in Auckland. He fought hard to keep in the match, but Tabilo always was on top, breaking Daniel’s serve in the sixth and eighth games of the first set and the 12th game of the second.
It ended a tough run for the 82nd-ranked Tabilo.
“Last year was tough. Even two years ago we made the finals of Cordoba and from there we were going up,” Tabilo said. “Then we had a little stress fracture in my arm and we had to stop that year and I had to work back up.
“There were a lot of injuries last year also and now with the whole team, with the recovery, with the food, with my family and my girlfriend also supporting me … it’s been a crazy ride.”
Both players now move on to the Australian Open, where Daniel will play Chris Eubanks in the first round and Tabilo will play American qualifier Aleksandar Kovacevic.