Andrey Rublev dazzles against Evans, while Sinner battles to Murray showdown

Raiders to hire McDaniels as new coach

Dan Evans certainly began 2022 with the bit between his teeth, scoring three wins at the ATP Cup, and making the semis in Sydney. However, he faced a tough opener in one of his favourite tournaments, drawing the second seed Andrey Rublev at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The 28-ranked Briton, though, had reason to be optimistic. Of their three previous matches, Evans had won the last two, all of the them on hard courts. Rublev, for his part, had only arrived in Dubai on Monday night after a run to both the singles and doubles titles in Marseille. How, then, would he bounce back from the travel and all those matches—and he had also reached the semis in Rotterdam the week before.

But when it came to Rublev’s form at ATP500 events, his record spoke for itself: Four of his nine titles had come at ATP500 level, all won on the bounce between Hamburg in 2020 to Rotterdam in 2021—and he went on to reach the semis in Dubai, too.

From the start of his opening match this year, too, he looked very sharp indeed in what became a high-quality encounter.

Rublev drew first blood, breaking in the eighth game of the first set to serve for it, but Evans broke straight back. However, Rublev produced his deepest, fastest firepower to attack the Evans serve and break again for the set, 6-4, having stacked up 13 winners for just three errors.

Usually, a nine-winner to five-error set of stats would be enough to win a set, but not for Evans in this pulsating, contest.

It meant, too, that Rublev began serving in the second set, but after a couple of holds, Evans turned up the heat to break Rublev with a huge roar. However, the advantage did not last long as the Russian returned the favour, a break to love: 2-2.

There remained nothing between them through some outstanding all-court exchanges, sliced defence and attack from Evans, big serving from Rublev, and some chivvying and chasing on both sides. Evans, though, had to draw on all his grit, fitness and determination in the 10th game, as Rublev worked four set—and match—points.

Evans produced some niche serves and passes to hold, 5-5, but would have to serve to save the match again after a swift hold from Rublev. The Russian went after the Evans serve once more, changing direction for a winner and 0-30. Evans had to scamper to reach a net-cord, and did so for a winner with a fist pump, and he attacked the net again, but this time Rublev slotted a forehand winner for more match points.

Evans saved two of them, but at the final attempt, Rublev pulled off a blistering running cross-court winner for the match, 7-5.

The young Russian’s statistics were outstanding: 31 winners for just five errors. Again, Evans 18/13 were more than decent, but no match for what looks like a man on a mission.

Rublev next faces the 60-ranked Soonwoo Kwon, and in the knowledge that his first seeded hurdle, defending champion and No7 seed Aslan Karatsev, had been beaten by Mackenzie McDonald, 7-5, 6-3.

American McDonald reached a career-high number 49 this month after undergoing right hamstring surgery in 2019 and falling outside the top 250. His recovery and climb up the rankings earned him the ATP Comeback Player of the Year award in 2021, and he certainly tested Karatsev in their only previous meeting last month at the Australian Open.

The Russian won that in four sets, but he had struggled this season to build on his opening Sydney title at the start of 2022. Here, an important opportunity was missed in a long sixth game, where Karatsev failed to convert five break chances. McDonald held, and went on to break for 6-5, served out the set, 7-5, and continued his run to 4-0 lead in the second set.

Karatsev responded to win the next three games, but again failed to convert a break chance to get on level terms. Instead, McDonald broke once more for the match, 6-3.

No4 seed Jannik Sinner came close to following Karatsev to the exit as he faced down three match points, before emerging with a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a draining two hours 31 minutes. The Spaniard broke in the final game of the first set and then held a 6-3 lead in the second-set tiebreak before Sinner edged it 8-6, and just one break of serve separated them in the final set.

Still only age 20, the Italian won four titles last year, and began 2022 with three wins at the ATP Cup and then a quarter-final run at the Australian Open. But he can expect another test in the second round where former champion and wild card Andy Murray waits, after this battling opening win over Christopher O’Connell in almost three hours on Monday night. Murray won his only previous meeting against Sinner in Stockholm last November.

Unseeded Karen Khachanov also got drawn into a dogfight against Alex de Minaur, and the Russian needed two and three-quarter hours to come through, 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-5. His reward: an appointment with five-time champion and world No1, Novak Djokovic. And Khachanov has beaten the Serb only once in five meetings, and that back in 2018.

Wednesday CC order of play

2pm Murray vs Sinner
4pm Kwon vs Rublev
7pm Djokovic vs Khachanov
Taro Daniel vs Marton Fucsovics or Denis Shapovalov

Source: Sport Review


Author: Ellen Garcia