By Alessandro Mastroluca
- Dan Evans  b. Mackenzie McDonald 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3
- The British No.1 came back from two sets down for the first time in his career
- In the second round he will face Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka, trailing 2-0 in their head to heads
MELBOURNE, Australia – Dan Evans fought back from the brink to move to the second round in the opening Slam of the season
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Dan Evans  b. Mackenzie McDonald 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3
The British No 1 Dan Evans managed to come from two sets down for the first time in his career after 15 unsuccessful tries as he beat the one-time American prodigy, Mackenzie McDonald. Evans completed a 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-3 victory in front of vocal but nervous British fans on Court 14.
After his heroic performances in the ATP Cup, where he sealed an epic win against Australian No.1 Alex De Minaur, Evans struggled to play his game in the first two sets. He looked tight, lacking patience and precision, coming to the net too early. The American, whose rankings slipped down after surgery on a hamstring tendon last May, continued to make his opponent run working behind a solid forehand. In a tense tenth game in the second set, McDonald held his nerve through six deuces, double-faulted on a set point, but extended his lead as Evans netted the final low volley.
The Brit suddenly came to life in the third, sprinting to a 5-0 lead. He changed his game, put more balls in, and self-belief gradually resurfaced. The match swung his way after two hours of struggle and McDonald had to accept his seventh straight defeat.
McDonald, who committed 68 unforced errors to Evans’ 43, lost his serve early in the fourth set. The Brit forced a decider and steadily controlled the game. He won a long rally to seal the first of two consecutive breaks that helped him open a 5-2 lead. Relieved, Evans sealed the victory.
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Dan Evans  v Yoshihito Nishioka | Nishioka leads H2H 2-0
Evans will face World No.71 Nishioka, who defeated Laslo Djere 6-4 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) completing just 15 winners to 41, but registering also 37 unforced errors to his opponent’s 68.
The quick Japanese counter-puncher offers a Kei Nishikori kind of game, with no tricks or variations. The different styles can create intriguing contests and put the creative Brit in danger as it happened in their two previous clashes.
In those matches, Nishioka showed his solid but somewhat predictable game and demonstrated resilience can beat instinct and talent. In Atlanta, in 2016, he came back from 3-5 down in the decider, saved four match points and finally won 6-2 6-7(2) 7-6(4).
In Washington, last year, he won nine of the last ten games as he sealed a much easier 6-4 6-1 victory against the Brit, struggling in hot weather conditions. After that match, he decided to split with former coach David Felgate after more than a year. The two had begun to work together after 2018 Wimbledon when Evans was ranked outside the top 300 following a doping ban.
Evans will need to raise his first-serve percentage from the beginning, as the Japanese drills aggressive returns against second serves. If he lets the World No.71 dictate play with his solid ground-strokes, his tournament could even be over. He needs to control the game, otherwise the Japanese could force him to chase ball after ball. The Brit’s ideal game-plan is summarised in a sound tennis maxim: never give your opponent a chance to make a shot he likes.
Prediction: Evans in four sets
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