Montreal Masters 2022: Dan Evans beaten in marathon semi, but reaches doubles final
Fellow 30-something Carreno Busta drops first set of tournament against Evans to reach first Masters final against Hurkacz
In a draw that featured four British men, it was neither the former world No1, Major and Olympic champion, Andy Murray, nor the No9 seed and last year’s Indian Wells Masters champion, Cam Norrie, who made it to the final weekend at the Montreal Masters.
After three-time champion Murray lost a tough opener to Taylor Fritz, Norrie had spearheaded a great line-up of Britons through to the third round, surviving some tricky early opponents. It became the first time in the Open era that three British men had reached the last 16 at the Canadian Open. What is more, it was only the second time that three Britons had made it to the last 16 of any Masters, the other being in Madrid last year: Norrie with Murray and Dan Evans.
Arguably the biggest surprise in the Montreal trio came in the shape of 20-year-old Jack Draper, ranked 82, and beating No3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-5, 7-6(4).
It was the young Briton’s first top-10 win after winning four Challenger titles this season, and making a semi run at Eastbourne. And it did not stop there.
Draper’s big, fast-evolving game took him past No17 seed Gael Monfils, too. The Briton won the first set, and then the Frenchman picked up an injury that forced him to retire in the second. Draper finally lost out to Pablo Carreno Busta, but this year alone, he has reached his first tour semi-final, his first Masters quarter-final, scored his first top-10 win, and risen from a ranking of 256 to 55.
Yet it was the veteran, deft hands of Evans that scored the deepest run in Montreal, reaching his second Masters semi-final in the space of 16 months, and that via some top-notch competition in a quarter containing Carlos Alcaraz, Marin Cilic, Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev.
He beat the latter two players in gutsy style, first No5 seed Rublev in straight sets, then Indian Wells champion, the in-form Fritz, 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-5.
He finally took on former top-10 Spaniard, Carreno Busta, also now in his 30s and regaining the kind of form that twice took him to the US Opens semis plus the semis at both Indian Wells and Miami. He also had in his locker an Olympic bronze medal, won last year after beating both Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. For Carreno Busta is that rare thing, a Spaniard whose game has yielded his biggest wins on hard courts.
Like Evans, though, he was yet to make a Masters final, but his results, also like the Briton’s, proved he was minded to do so in Montreal. Unseeded, he beat No11 seed Matteo Berrettini in his opener, then dangerous youngster Holger Rune, followed by the even more dangerous 20-year-old No7 seed, Jannik Sinner. And after taking out Draper, he came into his semi having yet to drop a set. Indeed his serve had been broken just once throughout.
This match, though, would go all the way to three compelling sets, and last three hours, as both men, playing one another for the first time despite their long careers on the tour, pursued a first Masters final.
Evans had played a tough schedule in scoring his comeback singles win over Tommy Paul on Friday and also winning two tie-break sets to reach the semis of the doubles draw with John Peers.
And come Saturday night, Evans battled back from losing a long opening set to Carreno Busta to grab the second in a tie-breaker. Ultimately, though, his opponent had more left in the tank to take the win, 7-5, 6-7(7), 6-2.
The Briton had certainly been taken to the hearts of the Montreal fans with his all-court craft, net-attacking variety, and some fine volley work: He took to the net 45 times against the Spaniard, winning 32 points there.
Surely his doubles work has also sharpened that element of his tennis, and again he returned to court to beat another of the singles semi-finalists, Hubert Hurkacz, with Jan Zielinski, 7-5, 4-6, 10-4, to reach his third Masters final.
Evans has yet to win one, but will attempt to do so on Sunday evening against fellow Brit Neal Skupski and his Dutch team-mate Wesley Koolhof.
Hurkacz, though, will be trying to win his sixth singles title, and his second Masters title, after coming back to beat Casper Ruud, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, with the kind of clean, aggressive, all-court tennis that earned him the Miami title and Wimbledon semis last year.
It was his fourth three-setter of the tournament, with his previous two matches—one against the hot form of Nick Kygrios—each containing two tie-breakers.
The Pole has yet to lose a final in his career, but will all those hours on court—including that semi run in doubles—work against him this time? He is 1-1 against Carreno Busta in previous meetings, both on hard courts, both last year. It is an intriguing prospect.