Dan Evans admitted he panicked during his comprehensive defeat by Felix Auger-Aliassime as British singles interest ended in the third round of the Australian Open.
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 31-year-old is as straight-talking as they come, and he said: “I panicked on the court. I missed my chance and I panicked a bit, and that happens in tennis.”
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.
He did not feel that helped him, saying: “I’m not making excuses but it wasn’t easy to have a walkover and I sort of lost my momentum a little bit. I never had that before, two days off, and it was difficult.
“I thought about the match quite a lot and probably overthought it. He was obviously way better than me as well. But I think I didn’t really play my game or didn’t get my game on court.
“I thought I’ve got a decent chance to win that match and probably thought a bit too much about him rather than looking after myself, my own game.”
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.
He could smile about it afterwards, saying: “I don’t know what that was but actually they should have kept it on, I played better with it on. It was probably the best part of the match, listening to that.”
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.
Felix flies into the fourth round ✈️
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2022
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.
Two missed volleys from Evans handed his opponent the first set, and he then double-faulted to give away his serve at the start of the second.
From there it was one-way traffic, with Auger-Aliassime winning 14 of the last 16 games to book his spot in the last 16.
Evans was cheered on by several British players, including Andy Murray, and he said with a rueful grin: “It’s a nice gesture that they came out. They’re probably regretting wasting two hours of their time now, and they will probably let me know.”
Evans will head to Dubai for a training block ahead of two tournaments in the Middle East next month, and he remains pleased with his start to the season.
He said: “It’s a long year. It’s not like I should be worried about what’s happened. I started the year well, I’ve had some good wins, had real momentum going into the match and one match is one match.
“I’ve got to forget about it. It would be another mistake if I keep worrying about that match.”