Dan Evans puts up fight but falls just short in five-setter

Dan Evans came up just short in a five-setter against Joao Sousa. Picture: Adam Davy/PA WireDan Evans came up just short in a five-setter against Joao Sousa. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Dan Evans came up just short in a five-setter against Joao Sousa. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Dan Evans, once the bad boy of British tennis, was one backhand away from being its saviour last night. But he missed it and he wasn’t.

For four minutes shy of four hours, Evans, the last British man standing in the singles draw, had fought and scrapped and done all he could against Joao Sousa of Portugal. But when that backhand presented itself as he was serving to stay in the match at break and match point down, he missed it. He had an open court to play with. And he missed it. He lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

“I obviously didn’t serve very well,” Evans said. “That was it. I didn’t play any big points that great. Fought as hard as I could fight. That’s all I can do on the day, is leave everything out there.”

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A year ago, he had no ranking at all as he came back from a 12-month suspension for taking cocaine. Once known for his silky skills with racket and ball but a total lack of work ethic and application, Evans put his shoulder to the wheel and hauled himself back into contention.

By the time he came to SW19, he was back up to No 61. He left last night as the No 54 but it came as little consolation. This was a huge opportunity and he had missed it. Now Sousa will play Rafael Nadal, pictured, tomorrow and Evans will be left to lick his wounds.

“It just hurts to lose that match really,” he said. “But what can I do? I mean, feeling sorry for myself is not going to do anything for anyone, is it? Just got to come through those matches if you want to be top 50, top 30. You got to come through them. I was found wanting when I needed to find my serve in all five sets.”

As the dust settled on the end of the first week at Wimbledon, a week of upsets and drama, two familiar figures sat securely in the fourth round unruffled by the mayhem around them. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal eased their way into the second week, Federer snuffing out the spirited challenge of Lucas Pouille 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 and Nadal flattening Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Both champions were very, very good and both opponents could not find a way to touch them.

As he tends to do at the majors, Federer rewrote another chapter of the history books, his win yesterday being his 350th at a grand slam tournament – and 98 of those wins have come at the All England Club.

As for his latest win, he was happy enough. Pouille has plenty of talent, but he is not sure quite what to do with it. Playing against a seasoned champion of Federer’s calibre, that was always going to be a problem.

“I’m very happy how it’s going so far,” he said. “I thought it was a good match with Lucas today. I’m happy that I’m able to raise my level of play. Also there was a great run of games midway through the second, also after winning the first. I like seeing moments like that in a match for me.”

He now plays Matteo Berrettini, the young Italian who has been powering through the grass-court season, winning the title in Stuttgart and reaching the semi-finals in Halle. Yesterday, he beat the small but stubborn Diego Schwartzman 6-7, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.

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Nadal, too, was extremely pleased with how his first three rounds had gone at the All England Club. He was having a blast playing Tsonga, a man he has known for a decade and a half. He was also barely breaking a sweat as he raced to victory. After the rigours of his second-round battle with Nick Kyrgios, this was a perfect end to the week.

“I felt very comfortable this afternoon out there,” Nadal said. “Is important that after the tough draw I was able to find a way to be in the second week. That give me some positive feelings.”