Daniel Elahi Galan’s secret to progress this year on the ATP Tour, as strange as it may seem, has been taking a break.
Disciplined work is ever present in the Colombian’s career, but downtime has been the most significant contributor this season and he is reaping the rewards. On Monday, almost a month after breaking into the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Galan defeated World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of the US Open.
Not only was it the best win of his career, it was also one of the biggest in the history of Colombian tennis, which has not seen a victory over a Top-5 player since Iván Molina took down then-No. 3 Manuel Orantes in Tehran in 1975.
“This result is part of a long process and the product of so many things we’ve been preparing for many years,” said Xando, Daniel’s older brother (four years his senior), who coaches alongside their father, Santos.
“People often see the amazing things, but behind that there is a lot of sacrifice and hard work. This win is a reward for the sacrifice and those day-to-day battles,” Xando said of his brother’s current form.
However, beating the World No. 5, who had a chance of becoming No. 1 after the US Open, comes after some changes to the 26-year-old player’s regime.
“There was a lot of learning last year,” Xando said. “For example, if we saw that the Top 100 was very close, or that there was a chance of picking up points for automatic entry to a Grand Slam, then we would play more and more tournaments without sufficient preparation. This year we changed our perspective and learned from our mistakes.”
“I was thinking about the Top 100 a lot last year,” Daniel said this past month in an interview with ATPTour.com. “I was putting pressure on myself. It was like an obsession that made me play more, so I wasn’t resting. I never stopped, it was very tough. Especially at the end of the year.”
Daniel spent his preseason training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in which he was looking for improvements in his mobility. Combined with being more strict in tournament selection to prioritise rest and preparation, this gave him renewed confidence and, above all, the peace of mind that allowed him to seal victory over Tsitsipas on his ninth match point.
“I think I’m mentally better than before,” Daniel said. “I’m fighting more, coming through the important points more frequently. Mentally I feel (I’m) in a good place.”
His words proved prescient with his win on Monday in New York, which was his first against a member of the Top 20, earning him a place in the second round against Australian Jordan Thompson.
Producing the upset of the tournament so far hasn’t unsettled Daniel’s relaxed demeanour. He continues to be a fan of anime, including the series One Punch-Man. The brothers also enjoy playing Fortnite.
“We play as a pair, and we blame each other when we lose. I just think I’m better than him,” Xando said, while cracking a laugh. “When we play video games, we’re just brothers. On court we know we’re working.”
Defeating the Greek to earn his 30th win on the ATP Tour, may give Daniel even more confidence to continue growing.
“Daniel has to keep trusting his ability and the process he’s followed, realising how far he can go because he’s destined for great things,” Xando said.
Did you know? After claiming his first US Open main-draw win, Galan climbed 14 places to a career-high No. 80 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.