Roger Federer sees off spirited challenge of British qualifier Dan Evans as reigning Australian Open champion makes it to the third round
- Great Britain’s Dan Evans went down 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 to the reigning champion
- First set went to a tie-break and Roger Federer edged to an early advantage
- Federer broke the serve of Evans in the first game of the second set
- The Brit broke back but went on to lose the second set in yet another tie-break
- Federer broke away in the third set and Evans wasn’t able to keep up
Dan Evans won the respect of Roger Federer and the Rod Laver Arena but could not summon up the killer punch to seriously disrupt the defending Australian Open champion.
Exposing his ranking of 189 for the nonsense it is, Evans played a full part in a hugely attractive match that could have become very interesting if he had shown a tad more composure on key points.
For all the flowing strokeplay on show, the Great Britain Davis Cup player could not quite execute when he had an excellent chance to take the opening tiebreak, having two serves for it at 5-4.
Roger Federer raises his arms in celebration after he managed to beat Dan Evans in Melbourne
Evans gave his all but wasn’t able to find a way past the reigning champion on Wednesday
But much more of this and it will not be long before he is straight into Grand Slam draws, rather than having to qualify as a result of the year ban that expired last April and decimated his ranking.
He drew some wonderful tennis from the great Swiss, who was forced to use his full repertoire, including the standard tactic of looping the ball high to Evans’ backhand.
‘I think I couldn’t pull away early in the match, I might have had that midway through the second set but he played very well,’ said Federer. ‘It was hard to pull away and credit to him. I thought I played well. The first set was big, I was happy to win that.’
Evans struggled in the second set and was broken in the first game by the current champion
Federer reacts after breaking the serve of Evans in the first game of the second set
He complimented Evans, saying: ‘It feels like playing a mirror a little bit and that was my mindset going in. He has a lot of slice and more serve and volley, my size can help me a bit more.
Evans will have wanted the weather to be hotter against Federer, who plays relatively rarely during the day here, such is the desire to get him on at night before primetime TV audiences.
As it turned out the temperatures were not massively different from when they met at Wimbledon in 2016, when Evans won eight games, and there was a breeze.
His best set that day was 6-4 but he quickly exceeded that in an opener that was an absolute treat to watch for an appreciative Rod Laver Arena crowd.
Both men played some wonderful stuff with Evans making virtually no unforced errors and keeping his first serve percentage around 80. The first threat – following a brief delay for spitting rain – was when he saved a set point at 5-6 but he then exerted real pressure in a tiebreak which began with six points against serve.
It was tough going from the off but Evans managed to stay competitive in the first set
Federer roars with delight after winning the first set against Great Britain’s Evans
The British player got ahead for 5-3 and then had two serves for it at 5-4. The pressure of the situation got to him and he missed two successive volleys, the first a fiendishly low one which he should have stayed back on. That was as close as he got to the set and ended up losing it 7-5 when the Swiss produced two more flourishes.
The 28 year-old Midlander had treatment for a blister on each foot at the end of it, and then played his first poor service game to be broken for the first time. He almost remedied it at 1-2 but Federer, who had loosened up, successfully challenged a baseline call of out on break point, which turned out to be the ball landing on the line.
Evans still kept his errors to a minimum and broke back with a scorching cross-court backhand pass for 5-5 to take it into a tiebreak.
This one began badly with another forehand error and he never quite got into it, not helped by the Swiss pumping down two aces. There were not the chances of the first one and it slipped away 7-3.
Evans looked comfortable at the start of the second and was in no trouble serving at 1-2 before some wondrous touches at the net undid him. The one which broke him was a netcord that the GB player fluffed his response to, but it was glorious stuff overall from the Swiss and there was no way back.