Dan Evans seals spot in Australian Open second round after fighting back from two sets down to beat American MacKenzie McDonald
- Dan Evans secured a hard-fought win over MacKenzie McDonald in first round
- He came back to beat American 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3 in three hours and 21 minutes
- Evans will now face Japan’s world No 71 Yoshihito Nishioka at Australian Open
- A third round against Novak Djokovic could be the reward for the winner
With a deliberate little tap on his stomach Dan Evans celebrated the most hard-fought of victories as a first time seed at the Australian Open.
Whatever discussions there may have been over his eating habits, the British number one showed that he is plenty fit enough by coming back to beat American MacKenzie McDonald 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3 in three hours and 21 minutes.
He now meets Japan’s world No 71 Yoshihito Nishioka, an ultra-solid baseliner who gives little away. A third round against Novak Djokovic could be the reward.
Dan Evans came from two sets behind to beat MacKenzie McDonald at the Australian Open
Evans looks to the sky as he celebrates following his hard-fought victory in the first round
Evans appeared uptight at the start but eventually asserted his superiority, showing how far he has come in the past eighteen months.
He dismissed his playful stomach pat later, although it was doubtless a reference to Tim Henman suggesting he could cut down on the calories.
‘No it was just a bit of a joke to the guys in my corner. There was nothing in it,’ said a relieved Evans after beating the world number 132, whose ranking has been falsely depressed by a long absence from the tour.
Asked what meal he would be having on Monday night, he responded: ‘What do you want me to have? I will have schnitzel. I don’t know. Whatever my girlfriend wants really. I am not so picky on what I eat before. We will see.
‘I am in good shape – there is no question about that. I have got strong legs and a good set of lungs. Everyone can be in better shape – that is just normal isn’t it. But I am still trying to improve on and off the court. I can’t do anything about it now. It is the middle of the tournament so we will see.’
Evans will now meet Japan’s world No 71 Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round in Melbourne
McDonald in action during the opening round of the Australian Open in Melbourne
Being British No 1 brings with it extra pressure but he denied that was a factor in his slow start after an impressive start to the season.
‘I go back to the hotel at night feeling exactly the same and I prepare exactly the same and I feel exactly the same on court. We all know who the British No 1 is and it is Andy Murray. He is the best player even at the minute when he is injured.’
While Serena Williams was making a successful start on the Rod Laver Arena to her 2020 campaign Evans was exiled to Court 14 at the extreme edge of the Melbourne Park complex, close to the city end. Wearing unbranded kit he bought himself from Uniqlo as he awaits a new clothing deal there were no airs and graces about him.
Such is the interest in him, however, and with a large number of British supporters in the crowd, the venue was inadequate for spectator demand with people several deep in the standing areas.
There was not much for them to cheer in the early stages against a player with a decent enough pedigree, but who has hardly played since the French Open last year due to a long-term hamstring injury.
The American got off to the perfect start but Evans eventually asserted his authority
Looking tight, and seemingly distracted by the crowd, Evans was tight early on with the tension spreading to his arm. His forehand in particular was misfiring as he made a surfeit of unforced errors.
Four break points went begging in the second set but when he squeezed out a break due to a netted volley for 2-0 in the third the anxiety started to dissipate.
That decisively swung the momentum and he began to hit far more freely. There was some late resistance when the American broke back for 2-2 in the decider, but Evans broke back straightaway to get to 5-2. A little bit of anxiousness returned when he served for it at and he was broken again, but then he broke once more to clinch the match.
Having already played plenty of tennis this month, at the ATP Cup and Adelaide International, it remains to be seen how much this will have taken out of him, especially as there will be a lot of running to do against his next opponent.
Before rain fell on Melbourne Park Kyle Edmund made a good start against 24th seed Dusan Lajovic, leading 5-2. Jo Konta was also due to play later although every outside court was delayed.