Novak Djokovic may think twice about keeping Dan Evans waiting again after admitting that the British No 1 ‘dismantled’ his game during an extraordinary upset at the Monte Carlo Open.
Having inflicted a first defeat of the season on the world’s top player, Evans revealed that he had been given extra motivation by the Serbian great delaying their entry to the court.
What transpired was among the least predictable results during this strange period in the game’s history, the 30-year-old Midlander winning their third round 6-4, 7-5 against an opponent who began at odds of 25-1 on favourite.
Dan Evans produced the best victory of his career to stun Novak Djokovic in the third round
The British No 1 put on a brilliant performance against a below-par Djokovic on Thursday
Prior to this week Evans had only won two main ATP Tour matches on clay, both of them back in 2017. Now he is in the last eight of the prestigious curtain raiser for the dirtball season, and he now meets Belgium’s David Goffin.
‘He kept me waiting at the start of the match in the changing room,’ said Evans. ‘It was a little bit annoying so I was ready to go, it got me a little bit extra fired up.’
Evans returned the compliment by opting for a late change of shorts when out on the deserted arena, earning himself a time violation before the start.
Thereafter he forced error after error from February’s Australian Open champion, who the previous day had looked impressive in hammering the much touted young Italian Jannik Sinner.
Conditions were something of a leveller, on a cold and windy Riviera afternoon.
Yet the determining factor, aside from any mind games, was Evans’s ability to mix his game up in a way which is depressingly beyond so many of the younger players trying to usurp the biggest names in the modern game.
Evans is through to the quarter-finals of a Masters event for the first time after the superb win
Evans mixed up his game superbly to stun one of the game’s all-time greats on Thursday
Using his delicate backhand slice, the British player repeatedly fed the ball low and slow to the Djokovic forehand, forcing him to generate his own pace. He also executed the drop shot to great effect, trying to avoid the longer rallies his opponent favours.
It was clever stuff, and he hit him on a day when the overwhelming favourite lacked his usual determination to dig in.
‘I don’t want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall,’ said Djokovic. ‘Today was completely the opposite of what I felt yesterday. Tough to play in these kind of conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.
Serb Djokovic said afterwards that it was one of his ‘worst performances in many years’
‘He’s a really a nice player to watch, not a great player to play against. Lots of talent.’
High praise indeed for Evans, taking a leaf from the playbook of the similarly-styled Tim Henman, who managed to reach the French Open semi-finals by playing the game on his own terms, rather than attempting the usual clay court war of attrition.
Afterwards, on Amazon Prime, Henman asked if clay – on which Evans had lost 10 straight matches prior to Monday – was now his preferred surface. ‘Is golf your favourite sport?’ replied the current GB No 1 , in his deadpan Brummie accent.