British No. 1 Dan Evans put up a valiant fight against a returning Kei Nishikori to the tour but bowed out in five sets despite a great start. Nishikori, who had to skip the US swing after testing positive for coronavirus, looked rusty at the start as Evans seemed to have the measure of the heavier conditions.
He was hitting cleanly through the ball while Nishikori looked decidedly step-slow at the start. But as Nishikori started to warm up to the task, Evans seemed to lose that bite on the ball as the Japanese player levelled the match. Evans was a lot more competitive in the third set but he passed up on chances to pull away in the tie-break for a two sets to one lead.
There was one last flurry of resistance from the Brit as Nishikori looked to be struggling with fatigue towards the end of the fourth set, but it was a brief respite as Nishikori took an early lead, found himself pegged back, and then broke Evans for the match.
After the match Evans said: “The end result was I lost. Yeah, I mean, it’s good, good effort. But I lost first round – it’s a little disappointing. I have to move on and get ready for the indoor hard courts.
“It was cold. Some of those balls we were using you wouldn’t give to a dog to chew. I mean, listen, it is what it is. I think the balls are the biggest thing. Maybe they got it a little wrong with the balls. It’s tough to get that ball to go anywhere. It’s in what month, September, October? That ball’s a bit too heavy, I think.
He admitted that his results at Slams this year had been a struggle, as the season will draw to a close:
“They’ve been pretty poor if we’re being totally honest. I’m going to play obviously St. Petersburg, Vienna and Paris, then wrap it up.”
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