British interest in singles ended in disappointing fashion at the Australian Open with a straight-sets defeat for Dan Evans against ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round.
Evans had won their only previous meeting at the same venue 12 months ago to claim his only ATP Tour title – the Murray River Open – but a repeat never looked on the cards from the moment he dumped a forehand volley into the net to lose the opening set.
Auger-Aliassime had spent eight hours on court in his first two rounds but Evans was unable to make this an extended stay on John Cain Arena, going down 6-4 6-1 6-1 in just an hour and 53 minutes.
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 22, 2022
The British number two did not have to take to the court to make it into the last 32, with second-round opponent Arthur Rinderknech withdrawing injured ahead of the scheduled clash on Thursday.
By the end of the day he was flying the flag alone after defeats for Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray, who was among a sizeable British contingent supporting Evans courtside.
There were surreal scenes early on as the sounds of a singer belting out Beatles and Elton John hits at a nearby concert drifted over the arena. Evans found it significantly less amusing than the crowd but had no choice but to play on.
It was Evans who had the first chances with break points in the fifth and ninth games but Auger-Aliassime was rock solid when it mattered, and that would be a recurring theme.
The 21-year-old Canadian has borne the burden of expectation since setting a series of age-related records on the second-tier Challenger Tour.
Initially he struggled to make his mark at grand slam level but, since beginning work with Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach Toni last spring, Auger-Aliassime has taken several steps forward.
He reached the semi-finals at the US Open and began this season in impressive fashion by guiding Canada to the ATP Cup title.
The frustration for Evans, who has also started the season well, will be that a lot of the damage was self-inflicted, particularly the two missed volleys at the end of the opening set and then a double fault on break point to start the second.
Auger-Aliassime extended his run of games to seven to lead 5-0 before Evans finally stopped the rot.
Auger-Aliassime had been a little loose in the first set, especially on return, but he got better and better as the match wore on, overpowering the much shorter Evans from the baseline.
The pressure told as Evans dropped serve again in the third game of the third set and Auger-Aliassime – who hit 40 winners compared to just 10 for his opponent – quickly wrapped up a comprehensive victory.