But as they say around these parts: if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.
So it was that a tired and aching Evans took a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 pasting from Federer on a bright and sunny morning yesterday. He lasted only 80 minutes on court with the mighty Swiss to record the fastest completed match of the tournament so far.
Coming less than 24 hours after his three-hour, ten-minute marathon against Pouille – a match delayed by a day due to the Wednesday wash-out – what little chance the world No 58 had against the five-time champion was reduced to zero: Federer was Federeresque and Evans was knackered.
To make matters worse, the careless, sloppy Federer who had racked up the errors and dropped the opening set of his first two matches was nowhere to be seen. In his place was the bloke who makes winning grand-slam titles look easy and who targets his first-week opponents as if he were shooting fish in a barrel. Evans, pictured right, had no chance.
“I was fatigued,” Evans said. “I thought it was pretty tough I was first up after playing yesterday, if I’m being brutally honest. Yeah, so it was a bit disappointing.
“Him being totally fresh and me battling yesterday, didn’t get out of here until probably going on 6:00, just complete polar opposites, isn’t it? And that is just to try to beat him feeling tired, stiff, playing four sets yesterday, it’s near on impossible. But I actually thought he played pretty much, you know, no-error tennis, I thought.”
Federer was not unsympathetic to Evans’ arguments but after explaining his position once – using the “it is what it is” line of reasoning – he had clearly had enough. When asked whether it was true that he had specifically asked to play the first match in the morning, he exploded. “I don’t remember that I asked for something,” he said. “I don’t even know if the team asked for day. I know there was questions to have a preference.
“But that doesn’t mean like, ‘Roger asks, Roger gets’. Just remember that, because I have heard this s**t too often now. I’m sick and tired of it, that apparently I call the shots. The tournament and the TV stations do.”
The furious rant was the only un-Federer-like move the Swiss made all day. And that was why, all things considered, Evans was not so desperately disappointed with the outcome. Yes, he had taken a thumping but he had reached the third round of the US Open, he had banked $100,000 and, more importantly, 45 ranking points that should lift him into the world’s top 50 once the new list is published a week on Monday.
From sacking David Felgate as his coach just over two weeks ago to arriving in New York with no real sense of confidence, he managed to fight his way through two tough matches and even if he could not lay a glove on Federer yesterday, he did not play badly against the Swiss. “I feel comfortable again, which is the main thing,” Evans said. “I don’t think I played my best this week, and I got through two tough matches.
“I have dealt with quite a bit. It was a new experience, this one, not feeling confident coming in. You know, I wouldn’t say panic, but I have had to do a bit extra, as well. So it was a new experience. To get through the first match was satisfying. And then yesterday I got better. Then today I actually thought I played pretty good, hit the ball as well as I have, the feeling on my serve was back.
“There is no shame in losing to Roger, to Rafa, to those guys, Novak. If you come up against them it’s unlucky, isn’t it? Or you’re real far in the tournament. And this time it’s just unlucky.”