The best tournament of Dan Evans’ career is over. The world No 179’s remarkable run at the US Open ended in defeat in the third round here when he was beaten 7-6, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 by Spain’s Tommy Robredo, a former world No 5 and one of the most experienced competitors on the men’s tour.
It was a thrilling contest. If there was disappointment in defeat for Evans, the 23-year-old from Birmingham should take great pride from his performances here over the last fortnight. Having won three qualifying matches to earn a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament other than Wimbledon for the first time in his life, Evans beat two of the game’s most exciting young players in Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic before finally bowing out.
The pay cheque for $93,000 (about £60,000) that Evans will receive for his efforts will be a welcome reward for a player who has struggled to make ends meet, while the points he has earned should see him climb to around No 150 in the world rankings at the end of this tournament. That in turn should enable him to compete in bigger competitions in the future.
Evans was the last qualifier left in the tournament and was attempting to become the first to reach the fourth round here since Gilles Muller five years ago. Once again the Briton gave a performance that belied his lowly world ranking. He struck his ground strokes with power and precision, served well and showed some lovely touches, particularly at the net.
His mental strength was again particularly impressive. Throughout his run here Evans has responded well to adversity and his comeback after losing the second set to Robredo was highly commendable. The Briton went a break up in the fourth set but just fell short as Robredo showed his own fighting qualities.
The 31-year-old Spaniard is a hardened competitor who makes few mistakes and regularly forces his opponents to hit the extra ball. The winner of 12 titles on the main tour, Robredo has been enjoying a late flourish to his career after all but disappearing from the radar because of a hamstring injury that kept him out of the game for eight months.
He was ranked No 471 in the world when he returned to competition last summer but is back up to No 22 after a series of outstanding performances. In reaching the quarter-finals at this summer’s French Open he became the first man for 86 years and only the second in history to win three successive Grand Slam matches from two sets down. Robredo is now through to the fourth round here for the eighth time, though he has never gone any further.
Louis Armstrong Stadium was less than half full at the start of the match, many spectators having left at the end of John Isner’s defeat by Philipp Kohlschreiber. Evans started slowly, dropping his opening service game, but as he has done repeatedly at this tournament, quickly clawed his way back into the set.
Having levelled to 2-2, Evans had chances for a second break at both 3-3 and 5-5, but on each occasion Robredo held firm. The Spaniard also failed to take his chances, having forced a break point when he led 4-3 and two set points at 5-4.
The opening set went to a tie-break, in which Evans never led. The Briton went 2-0 down when he put what should have been a routine smash in the net. He saved two more set points after Robredo had gone 6-4 up with a winning backhand pass down the line. When the Briton served at 6-7, however, a loose forehand that flew beyond the baseline gave Robredo the set after 65 minutes.
When Evans put a volley long on break point in the opening game of the second set the tide seemed to have turned decisively. Robredo broke again to lead 4-1 and once more to take the set.
The second set had gone all too quickly, but Evans, to his great credit, refused to throw in the towel. At 4-4 in the third the Briton played a masterful game, breaking Robredo with a smart volley winner. He made no mistake at 5-4, serving out to love and completing the job in style with an ace.
When Robredo sought treatment on his left thigh before the start of the fourth set it seemed that the momentum might be swinging Evans’ way. At 2-2 the Briton broke serve and punched the air in celebration after his winning volley, only for Robredo to break back immediately.
By now the contest had developed into a real thriller. Evans broke again to lead 4-3, but when he served for the set Robredo broke him once again. When Evans served to stay in the match at 5-6 a netted backhand gave Robredo match point, which the Spaniard converted with a volley. After three hours and 13 minutes, Evans’ US Open was finally over.