Dan Evans suffers first-round exit from French Open after five-set marathon loss to Kei Nishikori


‘You wouldn’t give them to a dog to chew’: British No 1 Dan Evans blasts quality of French Open balls as he suffers first-round exit following a five-set marathon with Japan’s Kei Nishikori

  • Kei Nishikori is into the second round after hard-fought win against Dan Evans 
  • Evans dominated the first set but Nishikori responded by claiming the second
  • In a thrilling third set which could have gone either way, Nishikori went ahead 
  • Evans set up a thrilling finale though after dominating the fourth set 6-1 
  • But Nishikori responded in fine fashion to take the fifth and final set

Dan Evans made a colourful contribution to the debate around the balls in use at the French Open after slipping to an agonising first round defeat.

‘Some of these balls, you wouldn’t give them to a dog to chew,’ he said in the wake of a 1-6 6-1 7-6 1-6 6-4 defeat to former world number four Kei Nishikori.

He had just spent three hours and 49 minutes chasing them around the desolate surroundings of outside Court number 14, and clearly agrees with the sentiment that has been expressed by Rafael Nadal among others.

Dan Evans suffered first-round disappointment at the French Open following a five-set defeat

 Dan Evans suffered first-round disappointment at the French Open following a five-set defeat

Japan's Kei Nishikori was able to fend off the resilient Brit to advance to the next round

Japan’s Kei Nishikori was able to fend off the resilient Brit to advance to the next round

Evans found himself having to fight from behind after Nishikori took a 2-1 lead after third-set

Evans found himself having to fight from behind after Nishikori took a 2-1 lead after third-set

The British number one did not blame them for what was the latest in a series of narrow defeats he has suffered since the tour resumed after lockdown.

He did point out, however, that it was unsatisfactory to use the Dunlop brand in the two weeks leading up to the clay court Grand Slam, and then have to play with the Wilson variety that are being employed this fortnight.

‘It was brutal, so cold, but I think the balls are the biggest thing,’ Evans added. ‘Maybe they got it a little wrong. It’s tough to get that ball to go anywhere. It’s in what month, September, October? That ball’s too heavy, I think.

‘It would have been nice to maybe use them the weeks before, that was all. I think it could have been a bit better for everyone.’

Evans set up a thrilling finale after a dominant fourth-set performance taking it to a fifth-set

Evans set up a thrilling finale after a dominant fourth-set performance taking it to a fifth-set

Nishikori bounced back in the final-set to take the win

Nishikori bounced back in the final-set 6-4 to progress to the second round of the French Open

The temperatures had lagged in the mid-fifties and a biting wind swept across the court. At the start it appeared that Nishikori, whose tennis upbringing has taken place largely in Florida, did not fancy it too much, and that it would prove an advantage to someone who has grown up in the Midlands.

Although ranked higher, an Evans win would have been considered an upset given their very contrasting history of clay court results.

Nishikori has reached the quarter finals at Roland Garros three times, and the last sixteen on another three occasions, but he struggled to cope with his opponent’s low slices.

It was frustration for Evans after a rollercoaster of a match which lasted just under four hours

It was frustration for Evans after a rollercoaster of a match which lasted just under four hours

The British player will look back at certain points of the match and know he could have clinched it against someone with little recent form to fall back on.

Evans served for the third set after coming back from 2-5 down, and had a break point at 3-3 in the decider which he lost through an unforced error. In the end the famed quality of Nishikori’s service returns just about got him through a match played before a few dozen spectators, given that only 1,000 were allowed in across the whole site.

The GB number one will be happy to move on to faster indoor surfaces for what is left of the season after this.


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