Roger Federer thrashes Dan Evans in straight sets at US Open
Dan Evans drew the winning lottery ticket when he earned a third-round match against Roger Federer but it was shredded in just an hour and 20 minutes on Arthur Ashe on Friday.
His new friend Roger Federer picked his game to pieces to win 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
It was the shortest completed match of the 2019 US Open to that point, but, for Evans, hardly the sweetest.
“He’s got to be one of the most accurate servers in our sport’s history,” John McEnroe observed of Federer, pointedly at odds with Evans’s poor serving in probably the biggest match of his career.
And the former world No 1 and multi-major champion said of Evans, “He won’t appreciate today, but he’ll be able to look back on it differently one day.”
Perhaps. The $163,000 loser’s cheque will be some comfort for the Birmingham player, but he will take some convincing that playing the game’s greatest player on such a big stage was an experience to cherish.
Evans said beforehand he had long ago gone past the mindset of being intimidated by Federer, although there is no lack of respect for the man with 20 majors and the love of millions.
The court wasn’t full when they started but it remains a huge pit, the biggest in tennis.
He was relaxed enough in the pre-match TV chat in the players’ tunnel with Brad Gilbert, but that is his default disposition.
Indeed, he started more calmly than Switzerland’s Daddy Cool, holding to love and taking three points off Federer’s serve in the first six minutes.
If Federer was aware that nobody has won the US Open after dropping the first set in each of his first two matches, he hardly showed it.
Those blips against Sumit Nagar on Monday and Damir Dzumhur on Wednesday were parked now, as he hit a rhythm to grab three break points, all saved.
Resistance flickered but not for long enough to inconvenience Federer, who was playing on another level.
Evans was taking it to him, volleying prettily and bringing the best out of an esteemed opponent who was looking more focused than earlier in the week.
It was a mark of respect for the world No 58, whom he invited to Switzerland for three days recently, to train and “just chat”, as Evans described it.
Federer also attempted to persuade coach Reno Manne to join Evans after Manne had rejected the Englishman amidst his testing positive for cocaine, then leading to his lengthy suspension.
Manne not persuaded by the Swiss to take on the troubled Evans, having worked periodically with Federer during his career Reno Manne is held in high regard by the 20 time Grand Slam Champion.
Now though, they were foes, friendship suspended. Their playing history does not embarrass Evans and taking Federer to two tie-breaks in the second round of the Australian Open was a quality performance.
Dan Evans ponders his options against Roger Federer. Photograph: Dave Shopland/BPI/REX/Shutterstock
The pressure mounted, though, and an irresistible passing shot earned Federer the break for 4-2 after 20 minutes.
The stands had pretty much filled now, and the capacity crowd were treated to some exquisite tennis, rich with touch and artistry from both players.
Evans’s ballooned forehand to hand Federer the set on the half-hour was a rare mistake to that point (apart from an underpowered first serve), but he was feeling the strain, especially having played for more than three hours the day before to win his rain-delayed match against Lucas Pouille in four sets.
So fluid for long stretches against the Frenchman, Evans tightened up here as Federer’s power and precision took an increasing toll. He was winning points almost at will and there was little Evans could do about it.
He found his serve at last in the fourth game, but Federer still broke to love, held to love and pulled away like a Ferrari leaving a bicycle in its dust.
The road from there to the end was bumpy and ugly, as Evans did his best to avoid embarrassment in front of a full house.
In locker-room argot, winning every point on your serve in a set is a, “golden” – and Federer surely has had plenty in his gilded career, but Evans could have done without it on a boiling Friday afternoon, as he scrapped as hard as he could to regain some of that self-belief he had spoken about beforehand.
Could there at least be redemption of sorts in the third set? A heroic fightback, maybe, like that which Pouille launched at him the day before? Unfortunately not.
Federer, as nice a man as he can be in front of a microphone, is ruthless with a racket in his hand and continued to grind away at his opponents dwindling reserves.
And then, from nowhere, the Swiss dropped serve in the third game to give Evans a sliver of hope: perhaps not to win the set or the match, but to restore some dignity.
He is a renowned fighter and it has normally taken a player of substance to stop his run in grand slam tournaments.
Having lost serve more than holding it after 69 minutes, his task was considerable. He’d soaked up eight aces and not managed one himself. Just over half of his first serves were going in.
When they did, Federer butchered them – as he did to break to love again, with the aid of an Evans double fault, and a 3-1 lead. The rest was a cruel spectacle, Evans ending it with a shanked backhand.