Wimbledon 2016: Roger Federer hands master-class to Dan Evans for 150th grass win

Roger Federer dismisses Dan Evans in three sets to reach the third round of Wimbledon 2016

What were the chances?

That was one of the big questions not a fortnight ago at Wimbledon’s smaller cousin in Kensington, the Queen’s Club. There, Andy Murray faced fellow Britons in both the second and third rounds—the first time he had faced a compatriot since Tim Henman a decade ago.

Now the same question rebounded around the British fans again. This time, the draw was at the All England Club itself, and this time, the big name in the frame was seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. For he it was who faced Britons in both the second and third rounds.

They were unlikely candidates too: World No 772 Marcus Willis had never won a main-tour match until getting past his first opponent at Wimbledon—and that after three pre-qualifying and three qualifying rounds. A Round 2 match against the best that grass has to offer, on Centre Court—plus the unparalleled prize money—was, as Federer put it, a golden story for Willis and the home crowd.

Now it was the turn of the higher-ranked Dan Evans, No91 and into the main-draw by right, to try his luck in another first-time Federer moment. Evans, too, had never won a match at Wimbledon, and in a strange quirk of statistics, he was also ranked 772 little more than a year ago.

But the compact Briton was playing very fine tennis, the result of hard work this year in earning two Challenger titles from four finals. He had played a few matches on grass before Wimbledon, too, making the third round in Nottingham. And he had the kind of big skidding serve and sliced backhand—another one-handed like Federer’s as it happens—to cause problems to anyone.

Evans was also confident, fit and not just here to make up the numbers. With his first two Wimbledon wins under his belt, the latter of them against No30 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, he was ready to go for a headline-making win.

“He’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. I just have to prepare myself and try and put that to the back of my head. Go out and give it my best… I’m not going to go out there to be just another guy he rolls. I’m going to put up a good fight hopefully.”

If ever there was a reason to be optimistic about facing Federer on grass, however, it may be now. After an outstanding 2015, with six titles from 11 finals, the Swiss had endured an uncharacteristically troubled season of injury and illness. Since reaching the semis of the Australian Open, he had played just four events and won only eight matches, and arrived at Wimbledon without a title for the first time in 14 years.

But his prowess on grass is unparalleled in the Open era—more titles than any—and as if to give this match a little extra edge, Federer was going for his 150th grass match-win.

Evans, rather like Willis had, was a little slow off the mark, though the crowd was quick to get involved. Evans had some vocal support, but it did not take long for the usual anthem “I love you Roger” to ring around the arena.

Evans survived four break points in his first game but after seven minutes, Federer had the break, and he then converted another for a 3-0 lead. A crisp love hold and it looked as though the Swiss would run away with the set, but Evans speeded things up—and he is a very quick player around the court.

The Briton held, then saw two Federer forehands go wide and broke for 2-4. He fended off two break points, as well, but Federer served it out, 6-4, in 35 minutes.

The second set opened in similar vein: Evans broken to love, a hold to love, and another break. Federer fought off a break point for 4-0, and made an exquisite drop shot winner for 5-1. With 62 minutes on the clock, he was two sets up, 6-2.

It was not as though Evans was playing poorly, though if there was a fault, it was that he rushed too often, and went for outright winners too much. But it was flashy, exciting play, with fast rallies, and Federer had to be on his toes.

Evans held on to his opening game in the third set with a great forehand winner, but could not hold off Federer in the third game. Another break and Federer had a 5-1 lead, and the match ended with a near-perfect hold from the Swiss, 6-2.

This closing set had taken just 24 minutes, with a tally of 29 winners to 15 errors to the mighty Swiss.

It was, in short, an appropriate performance for that 150th win on his favourite surface in his favourite tournament. No wonder he admitted: “I’m very happy with that.”

Elsewhere, Nick Kyrgios beat Dustin Brown in a five-set thriller, though his next opponent, either Feliciano Lopez or Fabio Fognini were locked at match point rain closed play for the day.

Indeed, with another wet day wrecking the day’s schedule, the All England Club was forced to confirm that the usual day of rest on middle Sunday would be lost for just the fourth time in the tournament’s history.

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