Britain’s Davis Cup hero Dan Evans powered into the second round of the AEGON Championships at Queen’s at the expense of Guido Pella.
Evans, 23, defeated Dmitry Tursunov back in April as Britain came from 2-0 down to beat Russia 3-2 in their Davis Cup match and his good form continued yesterday as he dispatched Pella, winning 6-3, 6-1 on centre court.
The British No 7 required attention from the trainer in just the second game of the match after falling awkwardly, but the short lay-off did not affect his game. He broke Pella in the eighth game before securing the first set.
The second set was much more comfortable as he broke the Argentine’s serve to love and then raced into a 4-0 lead.
Pella could only claim one game as Evans moved through the gears to take the set in just 20 minutes and advance to the second round, where he will face either American Ryan Harrison or 13th seed Jarkko Nieminen.
It wasn’t such a good day for some of the other Britons in action, though, and wild card James Ward spurned several chances to record a first-round victory over Ivan Dodig, serving for the match before eventually succumbing to the Croatian.
Ward took a close opening set on a tie-break and had two match points during the second set, as well as serving for the match during the decisive third.
But Dodig showed why he is inside the top 50 players in the world and performed doggedly to secure a 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/2) victory.
Ward, a 2011 Queen’s semi-finalist, took control of the first set after ten evenly-matched games left the scores level at 5-5.
The 26-year-old played a number of sublime shots to break Dodig’s serve, but the Croatian broke back immediately to set up a first-set tie break.
With neither player giving an inch, it was Ward who finally came out on top to take a one-set advantage. The close-fought success seemed to galvanise Ward at the start of the second set as he broke Dodig in the second game.
Dodig responded by breaking back immediately, but Ward held his nerve and took another game against the serve before holding to love and opening up a 4-1 lead.
Dodig rallied and survived two match points to break back and eventually take the set following another tie-break.
Yet another early break in the deciding set put Ward in charge, but he could not cross the finish line despite serving for the match at 5-4.
Dodig had dug deep to stay in the match and another successful tie-break meant he will now go on to face fifth seed Marin Cilic in the second round.
Scottish qualifier Jamie Baker also tasted defeat, losing in straight sets to ninth seed Benoit Paire, with the Frenchman recording a 7-5, 6-2 victory.
Former World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt rallied past fellow veteran Michael Russell of the United States 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 in their first-round clash. The Australian, who has won the tournament four times, sent a forehand into the net to drop the opening set. He ran away with the second set after saving six break points in the second game to lead 2-0. After an early exchange of breaks in the decider, Hewitt broke decisively to lead 5-3. Hewitt has now won 111 matches on grass. Roger Federer leads among current players with 112 victories on the surface.
At the women’s AEGON Classic in Birmingham, meanwhile, British No 5 Anne Keothavong bowed out in the first round with a 7-5, 6-2 defeat to American qualifier Alison Riske.
Keothavong, handed a wild card for the event, was broken six times in the course of the 92-minute match as she slipped to defeat against an opponent ranked 44 places higher in the current world rankings.
There was further misery for the British fans in the evening session as Melanie South was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Magdalena Rybarikova. Seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Ayumi Morita were early casualties on the opening day as they were beaten by Jamie Hampton and Alison Van Uytvanck respectively.