Marcus Daniell gets his own Big Day Out

Last updated 18:34 15/01/2010

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Marcus Daniell expected to be spending today grooving to Muse and Lily Allen at the Big Day Out.

Instead he had crowds at the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland dancing to his tune as he became the first New Zealander to qualify for an ATP tennis tour final since 1999.

Daniell and Horia Tecau of Romania sent the Auckland centre court crowd wild as they came from a set down in their Heineken Open semifinal to beat Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands Antilles 3-6 7-6 10-8.

The tall 20-year-old from rural Wairarapa and the Romanian partner he'd never heard of until this year now have a chance for their first ATP title when they take on Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares of Brazil tomorrow.

Daniell and Tecau only entered the tournament on a wildcard as Tecau and his usual doubles partner Scott Lipsky didn't have a high enough ranking to secure direct entry to the tournament.

Tournament organisers then told Tecau, at 46 in the world the highest-rated player to miss direct entry, that he could get a wildcard if he played with a New Zealander, which is when Daniell stepped in.

Daniell is ranked 767 in world doubles and his expectations clearly weren't too high.

"It's quite funny because before the tournament, for quite a while I've had plans to go to the Big Day Out, which is on today," Daniell said.

"I had my tickets, I had everything, I didn't even think I was playing in the tournament, so I had to give the tickets away this morning.

"So it's completely unexpected to be here but after two matches it's so tight and we got through and I don't think I'll have any problems with nerves tomorrow."

Daniell and Tecau had a relatively easy first round draw, beating New Zealand brothers Oliver and Rubin Statham, but it's been tough since then.

On Wednesday they had to come back from a set down to beat Spain's Tommy Robredo, the singles top seed and a world top 20 doubles player, and his partner Marcel Granollers after being a set down.

It was a similar situation today against a pair ranked 40 and 41 on the doubles rankings who were in four finals last year.

But after a first set loss which came after Daniell lost his serve, they made it to a second set tiebreak, which they took out 7-4.

The super tiebreak was tight but Daniell and Tecau got a minibreak, and Daniell made a difficult overhead smash look easy to take that 10-8.

A win would also be a first title for Tecau, who made two finals last year but was unable to win either.

Soares and Melo, also have solid doubles rankings - 22 and 34 respectively. Soares has won two titles, both with now-retired Zimbabwean Kevin Ullyett, and Melo has won six titles.

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Daniell, who won the New Zealand residential singles title last month before being knocked out of Heineken Open singles qualifying, admitted he knew nothing about either as he doesn't follow singles much.

"Horia's going to have to give me the rundown."

The last New Zealander to qualify for an ATP tour title was James Greenhalgh, who won a Hong Kong title in 1999 with Grant Silcock of Australia after their final opponents, Andre Agassi and fellow American David Wheaton, withdrew from the final.

Before that, Brett Steven won the doubles final at Auckland with Pat Galbraith, the last of Steven's nine ATP doubles titles.

Daniell will pick up at least 150 points on the rankings ladder for making the final, pushing his ranking up from 670 to about 300. A win would take him to about 220.

Daniell's win put the seal on a good day for New Zealand tennis.


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