Dubai 2020: Dan Evans beats Rublev to reach first ATP500 semi-final; plays Tsitsipas
Evans set to break top 30 for first time with fifth top-20 victory this season
World No37 Daniel Evans has recorded his fifth top-20 win of the year so far in another stand-out performance in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
He took on world No14 and No6 seed Andrey Rublev, arguably one of the best performers of 2020 thus far—the Russian has won two titles already—and beat him in a tough two sets, 6-1, 7-6(9), after more than two hours.
Evans had already beaten No4 seed Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, in a two-hour 40-minute thriller and then Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7) after more than two and three-quarter hours. He might justifiably regard this latest win, though, as his best, and it takes him to some notable milestones.
For a start, this is Evans’ first ATP500 semi-final after reaching two finals and a further semi-final at 250 level—and his first anywhere in more than a year.
Secondly, with Fognini and Rublev in Dubai, plus David Goffin, Alex de Minaur, and Karen Khachanov earlier this year, this already marks Evans’ best year measured by ranking wins, and the season is not yet two months old.
And thirdly, the Briton is sure to rise to a new career-high inside the top 30 come Monday, and if he keeps winning, he could find himself in the mid-20s—depending on other players’ results—and this from a man barely inside the top 200 at the start of last year.
The 29-year-old Briton, who lost to Rublev in Adelaide in a close three-setter in Adelaide at the start of the season, took control early, mixing up spin and pace to break in the first game, and he kept testing the Russian with aggressive net attacks, and some fine backhands both cross court and down the line. The Briton’s increasing speed and fitness were on full show, too, as he picked off high overheads and chased down the Russian’s powerful forehand.
Rublev grew increasingly frustrated when Evans broke for a 5-2 lead, but channelled it into some testing rallies that earned the Russian five chances to break back. However, Evans’ focus and variety of shot-production held off the challenge after more than 10 minutes, 6-2.
Rublev got the early advantage in the second set, breaking to lead 3-1. But Evans fought back to win four straight games. However, he wavered as he served for the match, and Rublev sensed his chance, breaking for 5-5: It headed to a tie-break.
Once there, the Russian came back from 1-3 down, but could not convert two set points, and that proved fatal. Evans sealed the win, 11-9.
In typically self-critical style, Evans was quick to point out his errors:
“I made a mess of some of the match points, especially my service game at 5-4. I just stayed in there and knew I’d get my chances. I’m very happy with the way I played. Staying calm is the key, also getting the right balance and being aggressive with my feet. I’m happy to come through.”
Asked afterwards what he was particularly pleased with in his game, he said:
“Just the variation. I got it just right to hit and mix it up. Sometimes you can do too much of one and not enough of the other. Yeah, I was happy with how I did all that… It was good tennis. Just didn’t fancy playing another set!”
But he is not counting his top-30 chickens yet:
“Yeah, it’s great. Good achievement. But hopefully two more matches here to play yet. We’ll see where I end up on Monday.”
And his next match is likely to be the hardest yet, against the No2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who arrived in Dubai just a day after winning the indoor title in Marseille.
In a tough draw, Tsitsipas faced his third tricky unseeded player in the shape of world No34 Jan-Lennard Struff, and had to come back from a set down to reach the semis, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
After dropping his serve to lose the opening set, Tsitsipas broke at the beginning of the second, but still had to survive two break points as he served out to level the match. In the final set, Tsitsipas failed to capitalise on four break points in the first game, but finally took the lead with a decisive break at 4-4.
The 21-year-old Greek, who was runner-up to Roger Federer in Dubai last year, said:
“I was struggling with my return today. I don’t know what was wrong with it. I kept hitting the ball out of position… I think that was the biggest struggle today.
“I think I’m actually pretty proud that I fought so hard, played with attention when I had to. When I got the break in the third set, I knew that was my time to close the match now. I did it in perfect style.”
Perhaps fatigue will become a factor for the Greek in the semis, following his victory last weekend and his tough quarter-final. He admitted:
“Yes, I did feel a bit tired when I started the match. Just couldn’t put pressure on myself. That’s a sign of fatigue. Besides that, I still managed to find ways to fight. It wouldn’t be an excuse even if I would lose, that I was tired. I should be in charge of that. It’s my rehab that I got to take care of. I got to be ready for every single match.”
Evans and Tsitsipas will play at 5pm Friday (1pm GMT).