Reaching 700 victories was one of Murray’s goals for 2022 and he hit the milestone in Indian Wells against the Japanese, who made the world No 88 work extremely hard in tricky conditions.
Murray, who was once ranked No 1 in the world, has battled back from hip resurfacing surgery to become only the fourth active man to chalk up that number of victories.
"It means a lot,” said Murray. “It was a target I set myself. Not loads of guys have been able to do it.”
Murray admitted, however, that he still has some way to go to get back to the heights of before, when he claimed two Wimbledon titles, the US Open and two Olympic gold medals. “There are things I need to work on,” he added. “I do think I can get there, but it’s going to take a lot of work on the practice court.”
This was the third meeting between qualifier Daniel, ranked 106, and Murray since the turn of the year. They met in the second round of the Australian Open, where Daniel was mightily impressive with a straight-sets victory, before Murray got his revenge in Doha with a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 triumph.
Daniel has improved significantly in the past few years after suffering from injury and, in the first set, he replicated the level he produced when the duo met in Melbourne, firing winners from both flanks and overpowering Murray. While the Scot was not at his best level, the 29-year-old Daniel put in a near flawless set of tennis.
Murray needed to find a fast response. He has often found it hard to play his best tennis in the desert of Indian Wells, where the conditions can be slow and windy. However, Murray was not about to go down lightly. He raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set with some excellent defensive work and court craft and while Daniel was able to recover one of the breaks, Murray regained his composure to take the set 6-2 and force a decider.
With both men feeling the burn despite two reasonably fast sets, it was unsurprising that holding serve was becoming problematic. Daniel struck first, only for Murray to dig deep and draw level at 3-3 as the match approached the true business end of proceedings.
Daniel threatened to break again at 4-4 in the set, taking Murray to deuce, but the 34-year-old saw off the threat of the Japanese, with Daniel needing to hold his own serve to stay in the match.
A framed smash in the opening point set the tone for Daniel, with Murray pouncing on the nervousness of his opponent to break to 30 and seal a memorable victory.
Murray will get a day’s rest before he takes on the 31st seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, who has also defeated this year.
There are three other British men in the main draw, with Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie both seeded. Evans takes on Federico Coria of Argentina, while Norrie plays Spain’s Pedro Martinez. Qualifier Liam Broady was due to play Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic later on Friday evening.