Dan Evans has achieved a fair few notable wins at the US Open over the years and it is undoubtedly the grand slam tournament where he most reliably produces his best tennis, but after a summer disrupted by testing positive for Covid-19, his journey to the third round for the fourth time must surely be the most satisfying runs of his time spent in New York.
In an afternoon ravaged by rain and the looming threat of Hurricane Ida, Dan Evans navigated multiple disruptions to defeat home favourite Marcos Giron 6-4, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3 and advance.
Evans, the 24th seed, burst into the match immediately looking to impose himself on the world No 64 and he broke serve in the opening game. By varying his serve, attacking his forehand and disrupting Giron with his slice, Evans played an efficient first set and held on without incident.
However, Evans trailed by an early break in the second set and he had only just snatched the break back at 2-4 when the first rains thundered down. Play was suspended but Evans returned even more focused, playing a strong tie-break to secure a two-set lead.
After struggling in the third set and in a tense first half of the fourth set, Evans said that he reassured himself during the match with the thought that he needed only one more set: “That’s what I needed and I knew that,” he said in an interview with Amazon Prime. “That’s what I kept telling myself. If it didn’t go the right way in the fourth, it’s another set and I played good. I thought it was a good level match. I’m happy with how I played, especially with how I served and was aggressive.”
By the end of the fourth set Evans was struggling physically, appearing to request medical attention on his leg in the latter stages, but a game later the British No 1 broke serve at 4-3 after a nervous double fault from Giron on break point. He held on from there for a gritty win.
The weeks since Evans tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced to withdraw from the Olympics have been tough. After moving on from the frustration of being unable to compete in Tokyo, he has had to start again from scratch, building up his fitness in the middle of the season.
He felt dizzy immediately after a three-set match two weeks ago and suffered in the heat in his first-round victory over Thiago Monteiro. Evans has said that he is hoping that his physical issues are simply a consequence of him being unfit after missing so much training rather than a direct result of Covid.
Afterwards, the Briton was clearly emotional: “I was struggling after Covid a bit. You’ve got no confidence, it’s tough. I’ve done a good job, if I don’t say so myself, to just hand in and practise each day and to get physically better. It meant a lot and everybody who’s worked hard with me, as well, I appreciate it.”
Evans will next face 22-year-old Australian Alexei Popyrin, ranked 73rd in the world, as he tries to reach the fourth round in New York for the first time.
Garbiñe Muguruza, the women’s ninth seed, defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2 under the roof of the Louis Armstrong Stadium. The encounter, however, was also notable for the simple presence of Petkovic in the draw, which did not seem likely just a few weeks ago. The 33-year-old, a popular and charismatic former top 10 player, had fallen out of the top 100 earlier this summer and considered retirement after Wimbledon, only to immediately rediscover a rich vein of form.
“I have lost hope and I have lost positive vibes many times over my career, but I have never lost the passion for the game I think,” she said. “I always told myself as long as I have this tingling sensation when I walk out on court and as long as I lose a match like today and go out and still think it was the greatest thing ever to be out there on Louis Armstrong and play these matches, I still want to play.”
Earlier in the day, Naomi Osaka was handed a walkover into the third round after her second round opponent, Olga Danilovic, withdrew due to non-Covid related illness. She will face the 18-year-old Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez in the third round.