File photo of Ben Shelton© AFP
Top seed Ben Shelton suffered a surprise semi-final exit from the Auckland Classic on Friday, beaten in straight sets by Japan’s Taro Daniel. Days out from the Australian Open, powerhouse American Shelton couldn’t match the consistency of his unseeded opponent, who won 7-5, 7-6 (11/9) to qualify for his second career ATP final. World number 16 Shelton was only broken once but the 21-year-old couldn’t capitalise on any of the three break points he earned against the pugnacious Daniel, who fought for every point in hot conditions. A quarter-finalist at last year’s Australian Open before reaching the semi-finals at the US Open, Shelton must regroup ahead of a first-round match in Melbourne against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
World number 74 Daniel suffered two gruelling losses to Shelton last year, including a five-setter in the Wimbledon first round, so was pleased to gain some measure of revenge.
“It’s always difficult to play against Ben because he doesn’t give you much rhythm,” said 30-year-old Daniel, whose lone title was the 2018 Istanbul Open.
“It’s all about who can put on more pressure and that tiebreak was such a dogfight.”
The second semi-final was to be played between French sixth seed Arthur Fils and unseeded Chilean Alejandro Tabilo.
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