By Ros Satar
- Radu Albot def. Dan Evans [Q] 3-6 6-3 7-6(7)
- Evans becomes British No. 3 and is sitting just outside World Top 100
DELRAY BEACH, USA – Dan Evans came tantalisingly close to his first title, but the honours went to Moldova’s Radu Albot who made history with his win.
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With a maiden title up for grabs, it was hardly surprising that the start of the match felt nervy from both players – Dan Evans threw in a couple of double faults, Radu Albot took a while to warm up to his usual gritty style.
There was a worry that after two extra matches, Evans would start to feel it, and Albot was the first to settle down and take an early break over the Brit. It was a tough battle for Evans to come back with a break straight back, and perhaps that was where it turned.
Reeling off five out of six games after going a break down, Evans’ pressure saw errors leaking from Albot and the Brit’s variety served him well to take the first set. Albot looked a lot more spirited at the start of the second set, peppering Evans with his ability to get every ball back, making the Brit work hard for each point.
The Moldovan broke first again, and had the pedigree of coming back a couple of times this week from a set down. Suddenly it was Albot coming forward while Evans seemed content to try and stay at the back of the court.
Evans looked to have rallied with two break point chances but Albot was looking just a little sharper now, fending off Evans’ charge to keep the tiring Brit at bay, and taking the match into a decider.
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However, there were more twists to come as first Albot got the first break, and then Evans halted play as the rain started to fall – possibly at just the right time for Evans. With the players off for almost an our, Evans did indeed seem rejuvenated, breaking back and switching up from his habitual slice to more penetrating deep backhands which started to put Albot under more pressure.
In the tie-break it looked as though a first title was coming his way as Evans led 6-4 but a brace of errors and then a double-fault on championship point handed Albot the distinction of becoming the first Moldovan to win a first ATP Tour title.
Talking to ATPTour.com, Albot said: “It was not in the plan, I have to say, losing the first set and then coming back. But it worked out pretty good this week. When you lose a set, it’s just half a match. If you want to win the match you need to win two sets. I still had chances, I got chances and I used them.”
For Evans, it continues a long road to recover is position before a drugs ban saw him off the tour for a year. With this run to the final he jumps up 43 positions and sits at No. 105 in the world, leap-frogging James Ward to become the British No. 3.
He told ATPTour.com: “He hit a good volley [on his third match point]. I have to give him credit. It’s easy to say I didn’t take the match points but I thought he played great in the moments he needed to play great. I was 2-4 down and staring down the barrel to be honest. I gave it a good go and it wasn’t good enough.”
Evans will next play the qualifying rounds for Indian Wells, which starts on 7 March.
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