Evans wins thriller against Kokkinakis
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Dan Evans overcame a spirited challenge from Thanasi Kokkinakis recovering from a set down to win 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5) in a blockbuster first round match at the Viking Open Nottingham.
The British No.1 – who won the last edition of the Nottingham event in 2019 – showed true grit and resilience to wear down the big-hitting Australian in a match lasting just under three hours in the ATP Challenger Tour event at Nottingham Tennis Centre.
In an end-to-end first set Evans was broken in the first game of the match but immediately won a break back of his own against the talented Kokkinakis – who beat Roger Federer at the 2018 Miami Open.
Kokkinakis continued to apply the pressure early in the first set, and with the match tied at 2-2 he took Evans to deuce before a forehand winner, followed by an error from the Brit, saw him claim his second break of the contest.
The 25-year-old served superbly for the rest of the first set – winning 85% of points on first serve – and fittingly Kokkinakis closed the set with an ace, his fifth of the opener, to take it 6-4.
It a tight second set, Kokkinakis continued his big serving, and at 2-2 he even came to the net to put Evans under pressure and force more errors.
Evans never went away, though, always battling back, but with neither player winning any break points the set went to a tie-break.
But when it came to extra points, Evans came alive. Two outstanding plays – which involved the Brit expertly judging a lob over the 6ft 5in Australian, followed by a cross court winner from a near impossible angle – handed Evans the momentum as he won the tie-break 6-1.
In the decider it wasn’t until 2-2 that another exceptional Evans lob set up the first break point for either player since the opening set – Kokkinakis responded with his 14th ace of the contest, and went on to hold.
Evans opened the door for his opponent with a couple of unforced errors, but saved two break points to keep the match level at 3-3, and after a series of strong holds from both men it came down to another tie-break.
Again, Evans started brightly – letting out a huge roar as he claimed the first mini-break – but the pair would continue to trade points.
Eventually Evans would only need one match point, though, whipping a backhand winner down the line to seal victory.
“It was a difficult match,” Evans said. “Thanasi is a great player and it was positive to play someone so good so early in the tournament.
“It was not as stressful as the score line suggested – I was enjoying it out there.
“I’m really happy to back in Nottingham – it’s an amazing court and it’s great to be here again.”
In the WTA draw Harriet Dart and Emma Raducanu went head-to-head in the day’s battle of the Brits on Centre Court.
Raducanu, who was making her WTA Tour debut, started the match slowly but grew in confidence. Dart was sharp in the early exchanges and set off to an early 4-0 lead before clinching the set.
The 18-year-old stepped up her game in second but the British No.3 had too much quality on the day and booked her place in the second round with a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Fran Jones fought hard in her first WTA Tour match on home soil, but eventually lost to Spain’s Georgina Garcia-Perez 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The Brit started brightly, playing with power and precision from the baseline to go one set up, but Garcia-Perez came back strong in the second and managed to level the scores before requiring a medical timeout with Jones a break up early in the third.
The break meant Jones had to stop for several minutes and she started to cramp up. She tried her best to battle through but in the end it got the better of her and Garcia-Perez went on to win the match.