British men’s No 1 Dan Evans secures a place in the fourth round for the first time ever after overcoming Australia’s Alexei Popyrinon at the US Open
- British men’s No 1 Dan Evans has finally secured a place in the fourth round
- Evans overcame the Australian 22-year-old Alexei Popyrinon on court 17
Nothing was ever easy with Dan Evans, but few athletes seem quite so adept at grafting and crafting their way out of a crisis.
This excellent US Open engagement was going horribly wrong for a time, with Evans two sets down against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin and heading for a face-first collision with the wall that forever seems to exist between him and the later stages of Slams.
But how he turned it around across the four hours of this riveting third-round tie, during which he caught and tamed a fine young player and bucked a trend as well.
British men’s No 1 Dan Evans has failed secured a place in the fourth round for the first time
The world No 27 has long had to answer questions about his failure to live up to his ranking at the Slams – indeed, this was the eighth time Evans has had a crack at getting to a fourth round and six of the previous seven had ended in defeat.
It is scarcely believable a player with his talents has not made that bracket since the Australian Open of 2017, prior to his cocaine ban and all the enlightenment that followed. But that clock can now be stopped, and with it Evans has earned the dubious reward of a match against the second seed, Daniil Medvedev.
That will be tough on all manner of fronts, not the least of which concerns Evans’ condition after the slog of this match, which itself followed a bout of Covid and the abandonment of his doubles campaign on Thursday with a groin niggle. But on he goes, fighting and chuntering his way into deeper waters.
Life is never dull with Evans and this latest match made for exceptional viewing, a pitting of Evans’ guile and nous against the power of a 22-year-old Australian who knows how to pull off a few of the pretty shots, too. At 73rd in the world, he might have looked a good draw for Evans, but that stationing disguises a game that is devilish when it is on song. Consistency will come with age, but plainly big performances are within Popyrin’s capabilities already.
At times, he was captivating to watch against Evans, who gave up too many easy points on serve prior to his third-set revival. The fourth set was carnage with five breaks of serve, before Evans was able to prevail 7-1 in the tiebreak at the of the fifth. By the close, Popyrin had dazzled with 77 winners, but the efficiency of Evans, with only eight unforced errors in five sets, took the day.
His start to this marathon could have been no better with a break to love in the opening game but from 4-2 up he walked into a storm as the Australian took four straight games.
Evans survived a break point at 0-1 in the second, and in doing so ended a five-game losing streak, but he soon fell 3-1 behind after Popyrin punished a short serve. The delivery was becoming a growing problem, while at the other end Popyrin was in possession of a serious weapon.
It was demonstrated savagely in the next game after Evans had teased and spun his way to 15-40. The subsequent four points were all Popyrin service winners, and a tweener lob in the next game showed there is considerably more to his arsenal than power. He closed out the set for 6-3.
Evans raised his level in the third and earned two break points at 2-1 up, but Popyrin was able to cling on, prompting the older guy to slam his racket against the ground in rage. His missed chances were adding up, with no fewer than seven break points going unconverted by Evans since the very first of the match, but a precise lob off his backhand ended that sequence at the next opportunity for 4-2.
He rode that wave to 5-3 and a service winner gave Evans the set and a lifeline. The fourth was chaos, with neither man able to hold serve. There were five breaks before Evans saw it out for 6-4, teeing up the decider, which fittingly weaved its way to a tiebreak.
Breaks for 3-1 and 4-1 had Evans in control and a Popyrin double fault gave Evans the win.