Given the respective rankings of their opponents it was no surprise that Andy Murray and Dan Evans went their different ways on the second day of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open here on Tuesday. After Murray had crushed the world No 2,129, Qatar’s Mousa Zayed, 6-0, 6-0 in the opening match on centre court, Evans was unable to bridge a gap of 126 places in the world rankings out on Court One and lost 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 to Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.
For Evans, nevertheless, this was another occasion when his talent and potential were evident. The British No 2 played particularly well to win the second set, only to fade as Gulbis took control of the decider.
At the end of last season, Evans won only two matches in four tournaments after the US Open, where he had beaten Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic en route to the third round. However, the 23-year-old from Birmingham has started the new campaign in good form. He won three matches in qualifying to earn his place in the main draw here and for a while showed great resilience against Gulbis, whose mix of crunching winners and careless mistakes make him one of the most unpredictable of players.
Having gone 3-0 up at the start of the second set with two breaks of serve, Evans went 4-3 down before breaking again to lead 5-4. Despite losing the first point of the next game in embarrassing fashion when he completely missed the ball attempting what should have been an easy smash, the world No 150 served out for the set. Gulbis, however, quickly had Evans under pressure in the decider and secured victory after an hour and a half.
There were fewer than 50 spectators present at the end and there had not been many more on centre court when Murray and Zayed opened proceedings. The Qatari wild card won only 17 points as Murray took just 37 minutes to secure a second-round meeting with Germany’s Florian Mayer.
Murray, who went straight to the practice court after the match, was asked if he had felt sorry for his hopelessly outclassed opponent. “Not really,” Murray said. “After the match but not during it.”
This was only the second time that the Scot has won a completed match on the main tour without dropping a game. He beat Robert Kendrick at Newport, Rhode Island by the same score in 2006, though that match took an hour.
Yesterday was also Murray’s quickest victory on the men’s tour. His previous best was a 6-1, 6-2 win in 44 minutes over Santiago Ventura at Queen’s Club in 2005, which was the Scot’s first success on the main tour. In 2011 Murray needed just 52 minutes to beat Luxembourg’s Laurent Bram 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in a Davis Cup tie.
Murray said he did not usually make New Year resolutions but planned to discuss them last night over dinner with his entourage. His team here comprises his long-term friend and hitting partner, Dani Vallverdu, his fitness trainer, Matt Little, and physiotherapist, Mark Bender.
“Everyone will try and make a New Year’s resolution and the rest of the team has to support them with it throughout the year,” Murray said, adding that he had not always been as supportive in the past. “If one of them is trying to lose weight, I will try to feed them so that I will bring in chocolate bars and stuff,” he said with a smile. “[This time] we said if that was a goal of someone’s, then the rest of the team would have to help them with it.”
Rafael Nadal began his new season with a 6-2, 7-6 victory over the Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol, the man who shocked him in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012. Nadal next plays Germany’s Tobias Kamke.