Dubai 2020: Dan Evans beats Fabio Fognini in comeback thriller
Victory over No11 Fognini marks Evans’ fourth top-20 win of year
World No37 Daniel Evans came back from a set and a break down to record his fourth top-20 win of the year so far, beating No4 seed Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, in a two-hour 40-minute thriller.
The top-ranked Briton, who reached a career-high ranking of 31 earlier this month, faced some typically charismatic tennis from the Italian world No11 to concede the first set and went down early in the second, 1-3, before rallying with his own all-court brand of shot-making to seal just his second ever win at the Dubai Tennis Championships, and in his first meeting against Fognini.
Both men lost serve twice in the deciding set before Evans finally converted his sixth match point to set a second-round meeting with Pierre-Hugues Herbert after the Frenchman beat Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-2.
Evans, who has already beaten David Goffin, Alex de Minaur, and Karen Khachanov—who, incidentally, is the No7 seed in Dubai this week—in 2020, talked afterwards of the difficulty of playing Fognini:
“Yeah, it was good. It’s difficult to play Fabio. He’s such a class player. Just happy to come through really. It was a good battle. I didn’t actually get to play my game too much, but it was good.
“His demeanor is so hard to play. No intensity, then he’s right on it, hitting the ball to the lines. It’s tough to play him. He’s obviously such a good player, moves so good, as well.
“I felt like he was on top forever really—just hanging in. A good part of my game is hanging in, just staying in the match.”
Also in Evans’ quarter, No6 seed Andrey Rublev advanced past Italian qualifier, Lorenzo Musetti, and will next play the in-form Filip Krajinovic. The world No33 from Serbia has already made the semis in Montpellier and Rotterdam this year, and he beat Joao Sousa 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, to mark their third three-set match in three meetings.
The only other big name to lose in the opening round was also in the bottom half—former champion and No5 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. He lost 7-6(2), 7-5 to the dangerous big German, Jan-Lennard Struff, who is close to his career-high at No34, and marked the Spaniard’s first loss in their fourth meeting.
Struff will next play Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Ricardas Berankis in another three-setter, and also coming back from behind, 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-3.
Meanwhile, the top seed in this half, Stefanos Tsitsipas, won a tough first set before cruising to the second round, 7-6(1), 6-1, over Pablo Carreno Busta.
The exciting 21-year-old Tsitsipas had raced to Dubai from his title run on the indoor courts of Marseille, where he won the tournament for the second straight year. Little wonder, then, that the Greek took time to adjust against the experienced Spaniard, who is ranked 27 in the world.
But after that battling first set, Tstisipas went on to claim his 10th straight set as he campaigns to reach his second final in a row in Dubai.
“I came into the match tired. I was upset with myself a little bit when I was 3-0, 40-0 up and didn’t get the break. I realised I have to save that energy because of the heat—it was difficult, the physical part.
“I tried to stay calm and not complain too much because I would definitely need that energy for later on in the match. I think I focused on my breathing, focused on constructing the points, staying in the point, trying to make things happen from my backhand side because that’s what I felt he played most of the time. Eventually I found solutions and started being more aggressive with my backhand.”
Tsitsipas next plays Alexander Bublik who beat Hubert Hurzkacz, 6-2, 7-5.
In the top half of the draw, No8 seed Benoit Paire survived a severe test and match points against an unseeded Marin Cilic, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(1), after more than two and a half hours. Cilic served for victory at 5-3 in the second set and held two match points, but Paire responded by winning the next four games. Cilic then held two more match points at 6-5 in the third set, each of which Paire saved with an ace before he went on to dominate the tiebreak.
The Frenchman, who began the season by reaching the Auckland final, said:
“It was not easy today. I lost five times in a row against Marin. I was not confident before the match. But really happy about the win. I was not feeling really good on court. Little bit sick two, three days. [So] really happy to win today and to fight until the end.
“For me mentally it was not easy to serve at 6-5 because I lost three matches this year at 7-6 in the third (in the fifth set in Melbourne). Even if you do 6-6, you going to lose. Why to fight until the end? This time I say, ‘OK, I try’!”
He next plays fellow Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, while No3 seed Gael Monfils will play qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama, who beat Yen-Hsun Lu, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Britons playing at Mexican Open, Acapulco
Kyle Edmund continued his good run of form to beat Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-1, in Acapulco, marking his sixth straight match-win after lifting the New York Open trophy earlier this month.
However, Cameron Norrie let an opening-set lead slip against Adrian Mannarino, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. In contrast, Heather Watson came from a set down to beat Coco Vandeweghe, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.