US Open 2021: Dan Evans survives cull of seeds to reach third round

Medvedev and Rublev keep Russian flag flying; Ruud and Garin lose to qualifiers

Dan Evans
Dan Evans (Photo: Mutua Madrid Open / Alvaro Diaz)

Already a dozen of the men’s seeds had bitten the dust in the first round, six in each half, and the bulk of them were ranked from 20 down to 32—nine of the 12.

So the only remaining Briton in the men’s draw, No24 seed Dan Evans, had done well to ease his way through with considerable grit in high humidity and heat.

Not that his segment had yet opened up a great deal. He still faced the prospect of No2 seed Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round, with No15 seed Grigor Dimitrov before that.

However, first things first. Evans had played American Marcos Giron only once before, and that was at the start of this year on the Briton’s way to his first ever title at the Murray River Open. Evans did not drop a set during that tournament, and went on to reach a first Masters semi in Monte-Carlo—where he beat Novak Djokovic.

It made him the top-ranked Briton in New York this year, seeded No24, though his had been a hot-and-cold season, with a number of first-round losses. He also struggled with form ahead of New York after contracting Covid.

That forced him to miss the Olympics, and he went on to lose his first matches in Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati, but in a gruelling opening at the US Open, he continued his run of never losing his first match by beating Thiago Monteiro in four sweat-laden sets.

For his second match, the 28-year-old Giron was ranked 64, and after surgery on both hips in 2016, he had been making steady progress, particularly this year. He had won a personal-best 15 wins to reach a career-high ranking, highlighted by his second and third quarter-finals in Halle and Winston-Salem.

Evans certainly looked confident from the very first ball, in cooler conditions than he had played on Monday. He stole an immediate break, and had the chance of another, but Giron began to take a leaf out of the Evans’ book with some angled slice and net charges. However, by the time Evans served for the set, after less than half an hour, the Briton had won eight of nine net approaches, and dropped only three points on serve.

Evans then had a chance to break in the first game of the second set, did not convert, and Giron rose in confidence to break in the second game, stretching his lead to 4-1 with some proactive, attacking plays.

But come the seventh game, Evans refocused on his own tactics, and it delivered the break back, 3-4. However, the rain that had delayed the start of the first match of the day returned, and the players hurried off to the locker room.

Back on court more than half an hour later, Evans held to level the score, but serving at 5-6, the rain began again.

This time, they sat it out for a few minutes before Evans returned to hold with some style, a high backhand volley winner, and come the tie-breaker, he stole the first point, and changed ends 4-2. He sealed the set, 7-6(3), with some more net play, winning his 17th point there.

But again in the third set, Evans immediately lost his serve, and looked shaky in the third game, too. The Briton’s level had dropped and his error-count cranked up, while Giron’s serving was making hay, and he broke again, before holding for the set, 6-2.

Evans regrouped to take the first game in the fourth, then had a chance to break, but they stayed on serve for seven games. The Briton seemed to have some pain in his foot, but he did not seek treatment. Instead, it was Giron who threw in a shocker of a service game to hand over the key break. Evans was able to grab the win with both hands, 6-3, finishing twice at the net to tot up 28 net winners—more than all his errors in the match.

Only once in his career thus far has Evans reached the fourth round of a Major, and that was the Australian Open in 2017, but now he has a good chance of matching it in New York. For while Evans completed his match, there was a disappointing retirement for Dimitrov with a foot injury. So the Briton’s next opponent will be 22-year-old Aussie Alexei Popyrin, who won 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 4-0.

It marks a tough year for the Dimitrov, who also had to retire from his opener at the French Open with a back injury, one of six first-round losses this season. He will, as a result, plummet in the ranks almost to 30 after his semi run at the US Open last year.

However world No2 and 2019 US finalist Medvedev cruised into Round 3 over Dominik Koepfer, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the third round in New York for the fourth straight year. The 25-year-old has now won 13 of 15 matches this summer, after reaching the quarters at the Tokyo Olympics, winning his fourth Masters title in Toronto, and making the semis in Cincinnati.

Medvedev will next play Pablo Andujar, while No5 seed Andrey Rublev, who beat Pedro Martinez at the top of this bottom half of the draw, will next face [Frances Tiafoe].

Dimitrov was not the only seed to lose in this round: He was joined by No16 seed Cristian Garin, who was beaten in five sets by qualifier Henri Laaksonen. The Swiss will next face fellow qualifier, Peter Gojowczyk, who beat Dusan Lajovic. And one more qualifier upset the apple cart: Botic van de Zandschulp beat No8 seed Caspar Ruud, to make it nine seeds gone from the 16 who should have arrived in Round 3.

Hoping to buck the giant-killing trend, No3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas would later attempt to reach the third round after his marathon five-set win over former champion Andy Murray on Monday. Should he beat tricky Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino, who also survived a five-set opener, Tsitsipas could reach the quarters without facing a seed.

Teenager Emma Raducanu, the only British woman left in the singles draw, plays Zhang Shuai, ranked 49 in the world, on Thursday.

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