By Phil James
Dan Evans lost his maiden ATP tour semi-final yesterday, ousted 5-7 6-4 6-3 by the top seeded Tommy Haas in Croatia.
The odds were against 23-year-old Evans, a ‘lucky loser’ entrant into the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, against the veteran German ranked, 135 places higher at 12th in the world.
Haas ,35, was aiming for a 550th win and a 29th tour final, and an upset seemed unlikely when he won the first two games, both to love.
But the British number two broke back immediately and continued to hold serve comfortably until 4-5, when a double fault brought up a set point for Haas.
An excellent winner up the line saved that for Evans as he went on to hold, and then force 15-40 on the German’s serve.
The top seed fought back to deuce, then saved a third break point before the Brit from Solihull eventually broke and then held to win the set, despite Haas’ protestations over a line call.
The second set was a tight affair, Evans unable to take an early break point before he again faced danger while serving to stay in the set at 4-5 and this time Haas made no mistake, breaking to 15 to level the match at one set all.
Though the German was now in the ascendency the result was far from certain, and when Evans saved four break points serving at 2-3, Haas slammed his racket down in frustration.
But that outlet of frustration may have been just what the top seed needed, as he forced a fifth break point and this time made no mistake to go up 2-4.
Haas did not let the lead slip this time, serving out to win in just under two hours.
However it was not to be a 16th title for the German, as he lost to Croatian Marin Cilic in Sunday’s final.
Fifth-seeded Cilic won 6-3 6-4 in front of a home crowd to win the PBZ Zagreb Indoors title for a fourth time, without dropping a set.
In his own semi-final, Cilic has beaten another German, Bjorn Phau, the man who had beaten Evans in the final round of qualifying.
Evans gained entrance to the main draw as a ‘lucky loser’ when Radek Stepanek withdrew with a heel injury.
He then went onto beat Jan Hajek (world ranking 106), qualifier Michael Berrer (148) and 3rd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber (27).
In doing so, Evans become the first British man aside from Andy Murray to reach an ATP semi-final since James Ward at Queens in 2011.
Had we won, he would have been first British man (again other than Murray) to reach an ATP final since Tim Henman in 2006.
Evans will rise to inside the top 125 in the rankings come Monday and will see this as the perfect response to being left out of the Davis Cup team which beat the U.S in San Diego.
Earlier in the season, Evans impressively qualified in Doha for the ATP250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open before losing in the first round but then failed to qualify for the Australian Open.
After his run to the third round of the 2013 US Open in September, these two ATP tour appearances confirms Evans has the game to play at these levels.
He just needs to win more of the games against the lesser opponents, to give himself these chance to impress on the big stage,