Wimbledon 2016: Evans latest Brit to set Federer showdown, Watson suffers bitter loss

Dan Evans sets up meeting with seven-time champion Roger Federer, while Heather Watson is defeated by Annika Beck

The biggest story of Wimbledon so far has surely been about one lowly-ranked Briton, Marcus Willis, and the biggest match of the tournament his once-in-a-lifetime contest against seven-time champion Roger Federer. The world No772 even wore a Federer monogrammed shirt: He had, he said, bought it himself—no Nike freebies for him.

But the second story so far this year has surely been the weather, the same dank, unpredictable, cloud-heavy weather that had stalked the entire French Open, and then most of the grass tournaments that heralded the all-too-short green season.

After a showery start to Wimbledon, first Wednesday was so persistently wet that, for the first time since 2007, ticket-holders would get a refund.

And it was so persistently wet that by mid afternoon on the same day, the tournament had announced that all men’s doubles matches—none of which had yet taken to court—would be best of three sets rather than five.

But the backlog and the delays remained a concern for players and their entourages. By Thursday, fans should have been enjoying the conclusion of all the second-round matches: As it was, there were still 14 first-round matches to finish, and four of those had not even begun.

All matches, then, were scheduled to start half an hour early, and one of those incomplete first contests involved the British No2 Heather Watson, ranked 55, against the No43 ranked Annika Beck.

It was hard to call, since the two women had not met on the main tour before, and neither had put together much form in the last month or two. Indeed Beck had not played a grass event at all, while Watson had got just one win in three back-to-back tournaments on home turf.

In a topsy-turvy opening on Wednesday, Watson had won the first set 6-3 and lost the second 0-6, and had been broken in the first game of the decider, too. She also started slowly when they resumed play at 11am, going down another break, 1-4. But a code violation for a smashed racket seemed to spur her into action, and she levelled at 4-4.

They edged to 6-6, only for Beck to get a break in a long 13th game after Watson put a drop-shot attempt into the net. However she immediately broke back and the set continued well into its second hour as each held on grimly to serve.

Henman Hill, though, went into overdrive as Watson went 0-40 on Beck’s serve—only to sigh in despair as the German pegged back each match point. Instead, it was Beck who broke in the next, and she served out the match after almost three hours, 12-10 in the third.

A despondent Watson, much, much later, could still only say:
“I take losses badly anyway, but this is the worst.”

Another Briton resuming his match after rain stopped play—this time a second-round contest—was Dan Evans, who was locked in a first-set tie-break with No30 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Evans had already played well against the unconventional flair tennis of the Ukrainian, but his level continued to rise with the early sun on his back.

Here was a Briton who had knuckled down over the last couple of years, determined to make the most of his considerable talent, and it had already earned him his first match-win at Wimbledon in a gutsy opener against Jan-Lennard Struff. But this was a tougher prospect—even though Evans made it look easy.

The Briton edged the tie-break, 7-6(6), and quickly broke Dolgopolov in the third game of the second set. Another break and he was 5-1 up, and after conceding one break back, he served out the set with a serve-plus-volley drop-shot, 6-4.

Evans is a busy player, and when he feels confident, he bustles around the court with even more intent. He could not put a foot wrong, and rode the wave through three breaks to take set and match, 6-1, in under two hours.

As if to make up for the ill-fortune of the weather, Evans’ win also delivered another minor bonus for Wimbledon. After Willis played out his fairytale the day before against Federer, now Evans would have the same chance—he will play the Swiss for the first time at his home Major.

Evans has a less extrovert personality than Willis, but he has just as much dry humour. Asked if he had talked to his fellow Brit about playing Federer, he quipped:

“Are you kidding me? Don’t get a word out of him. He’s a celebrity now. Just looks at his phone.”

And as for advice: “No. [He] lost in three straights. [Smiling] No advice needed.”

But talking about his performance, Evans was deadly serious.

“It was a good one, especially in England. Yesterday was really difficult to play. I felt good coming in today when it was dry and could actually move pretty well on the court and sort of use my strengths… It was a really good performance… flowed pretty well, served well, probably won’t realise how well I played until I watch it myself.”

He would not, he said, be wearing a Federer monogrammed shirt for his next match, but would prepare as well as he could:
“I mean, [Federer’s] not a normal guy obviously, but he’s another tennis player who I have to prepare myself to just play another match. Against him, it would be stupid to say it’s not a special occasion to play him… I just have to prepare myself best and try and put that to the back of my head, that it’s Roger I’m playing. Go out and give it my best.”

Yes, Wimbledon is being rewarded well by its Britons. The tournament began with 15 in the singles draws, the most since 2006. No2 seed Andy Murray and No16 seed Johanna Konta would play for a Round 3 place later in the day, while Tara Moore had yesterday won her first ever Wimbledon match to make Round 2.

Now Evans had won his first two matches at the All England Club—and a second British showdown with superstar Federer.

“Hopefully an even better [contest] than most people think. It’s going to be tough. I’m going to go for some probably pain running around tomorrow. But it’s going to be enjoyable. I’ll enjoy every minute of it, to be honest with you, whatever the score.”

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