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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, April 15, 2021

 
Dan Evans

Dan Evans broke serve five times scoring a stunning 6-4, 7-5 win over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to reach his first career Masters quarterfinal in Monte-Carlo.

Photo credit: Valery Hache/Getty

Neighborhood resident Novak Djokovic has home-schooled the elite for years at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

Today, Dan Evans dispensed clever combinations showing Djokovic the door in scoring the most stirring victory of his life.

Unleashing an unsettling mix of force and finesse, Evans displaced Djokovic then evicted the world No. 1 from his home court scoring a shocking 6-4, 7-5 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters victory to reach his first career Masters quarterfinal.

Evans handed Djokovic his first loss in 11 matches this season playing thoughtful tennis and exuding more emotional intensity throughout.

"It's obviously my best win," Evans told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward. "It's such a difficult surface so many things you have to get right, sliding, moving volleying it's so difficult.

"I find it difficult. I'm working day by day to get better. It's extra satisfying to beat Novak—especially on clay."

It was a superb display of all-court tennis from Evans, who broke serve five times and saved a set point in the 10th game of the second set with dizzying drop shots and dynamic drives.




It was a sloppy performance from Djokovic, who showed little rust sweeping Miami Open finalist Jannik Sinner in his opener, but reeked rust all over the red clay and couldn't consistently find control in what he called one of his "worst matches and performances" in years.

Playing on his home court, the 36-time Masters champion looked as out of sorts as a man returning home after a long road trip to find all the furniture in his living room rearranged: everything once so familiar seemed oddly out of place.

"Congratulations to him. I mean, he deserved to win. He was a better player," Djokovic said. "Just more focused I guess and played with a better quality in the decisive moments. To be honest, I mean, this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years.

"I don't want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It's one of those days."

The 33-year-old Djokovic opened the match gifting the break by slapping a couple of double faults, couldn't find the range on his normally rock-solid two-handed backhand and double-faulted away the final break to give Evans a 6-5 lead.

Still, given the monumental challenge Evans faced the fact that he kept his cool and continued befuddling the Australian Open champion with an array of spins and speeds speaks to his strong self belief. All this from a man who was unranked in April of 2018 after serving a drug suspension for a positive cocaine test, carried an 0-11 career record vs. Top 10 opponents onto court today and who freely admits clay is his least favorite surface.

Evans was stronger between the ears and that was vital to topping the reigning Wimbledon winner between the lines.

"That's the biggest thing, is you have to believe you can win," Evans said. "You really have to believe it. Of course I doubted myself in the match - serving it out is not easy."


On a breezy, chilly afternoon, Djokovic looked out of sorts at the start.

In a dodgy start, Evans incurred a time violation warning for not being out on court when Djokovic was ready to serve to open. Then the Serbian slapped successive double faults, framed a forehand and netted a backhand to hand the Briton the opening break.

Bouncing his palm off his strings as if trying to tune up his wayward shots early, Djokovic couldn't quite find the range. The Australian Open champion ballooned a forehand and was frozen by an Evans clean drop shot winner as the Briton broke again for 3-0.

Playing persistent slice backhands throughout the first four games, Evans switched it up and surprised Djokovic flicking a topspin backhand down the line to erase break point in the fourth game. Djokovic regained one break when Evans' serve-and-volley effort ended with a long volley putting the Serbian on the board after 19 minutes.

The world No. 1 settled in surging through nine consecutive points following a love hold by seizing double break point in the sixth game. Throughoug the match, Evans exuded more emotional intensity. He denied both break points and bellowed "come on!" trying to fire himself through a demanding game.

A terrific touch point saw Evans soar for a high backhand overhead and Djokovic end the point with his second slick drop shot. The world No. 33 worked through a near 10-minute hold for 4-2.

In the eighth game, Djokovic again used the drop shot to unsettle his opponent. Evans shoveled an approach beyond the baseline as the top seed broke back leveling after eight games.

Still, Evans kept coming. Playing with plenty of positive emotion, Evans lifted a topspin backhand pass that crosscourt that helped him break back for 5-4.

Evans skimmed the net with a forehand seizing double-set point. Djokovic denied the first with a crackling forehand and saved the second sliding into a drop shot and redirecting a drop shot winner off the sideline.

That was brief reprieve. When Djokovic slapped successive shots into net, Evans collected the 54-minute opener with a clenched fist.




Djokovic littered more than 20 unforced errors and won just 50 percent (8 of 16) first-serve points as he struggled to tame Evans' variety and the spring chill.

Tennis Express

Resetting, the top seed was playing with more controlled aggression cruising to a 3-0 second-set lead before Evans held.

The two-time Monte-Carlo champion has a habit of responding to drop shots with crosscourt re-droppers. Evans read it was already moving before Djokovic finished his shot, ran down the dropper and snapped a forehand winner for break point in the fifth game. Evans whipped a forehand winner inside the sideline for his fourth break in eight of the Serbian's service games.

Navigating a near nine-minute hold, Evans showed both force and finesse saving a couple of break points. Evans torched a 90 mph forehand winner behind Djokovic that staggered the top seed. Evans showed fine feel that may come from his years of playing squash ladling a clean forehand dropper to even after eight games.

Scattering 35 unforced errors to that point, Djokovic was behind the baseline when he floated a poor drop shot that sat up in the box. Swooping in, Evans lined up an easy backhand sitter.

The ball begged to be punished, but the man who had carved slice so well throughout the day, missed the moment smacking a topspin backhand into the top of the tape. Instead of facing double break point, Djokovic caught a lifeline and reeled himself back from the brink slashing an ace for 5-4.

Every time he was tested, Evans had an answer.

The British No. 1 saved a set point in the 10th game when Djokovic's normally trusty two-hander betrayed him as he netted his 23rd backhand error. Evans hung tough through a punishing game putting the pressure back on the top seed's shoulders.




Throughout the match, Evans exerted the right balance of attack and subtlety. He stepped into the court rushing his opponent with a forehand to earn double break point. Waiting for a gust of wind to subside before a second serve, Djokovic sailed his fourth double fault donating the break and a 6-5 lead.

Sifting another superb drop shot winner put Evans up 30-15. The Briton wisely stretched Djokovic with a backhand pass then slipped a forehand pass down the line closing in two hours, six minutes.

Next up for Evans is 2017 Monte-Carlo semifinalist David Goffin, who toppled Alexander Zverev 6-4, 7-6(7) leaving the fifth-seeded German spiking his Head racquet to the dirt in disgust. Evans expects to attack more against Goffin. 

"He's a really tough competitor," Evans said of the Belgian. "He'll make me win the match he's not going to give me much.

"I imagine I'll have to come forward a bit more than today. I was not scared to come in, but I was worried he was going to get it low put a few by me. So tomorrow, I'll be coming forward a bit more hopefully." 

 

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