The Australian Open has now reached the last 16 and there will be no Brit to support during the second week following Dan Evan’s rather rapid straight sets exit in the third round to Felix Auger-Aliassime, the ninth seeded Canadian.
I just never felt like there was a rhythm to the match, Dan Evans
His frustration at being unable to raise his game and give his opponent a competitive match, could be blamed on his lack of play during the week after being give a walkover into the third round. Or so he believes.
In addition, he was distracted by a live band and vocalist belting out loud music elsewhere in the complex which could be heard distinctly on the John Cain Arena court.
“It’s not like it’s a little bit loud,” Evans complained to umpire Jaume Campistol. “It’s on the court.”
His frustration wasn’t helped when he failed to convert to break points on the Auger-Aliassime serve and was then broken himself at the first opportunity to leave him a set down after 48 minutes of play.
Evans admitted after his 6-4 6-1 6-1 defeat that he felt “out of sorts” on the court.
“I just never felt like there was a rhythm to the match,” the British No.2 said.
Auger-Aliassime did seem initially troubled by Evans’ slice backhand, but did eventually get more of a handle on the groundstrokes, moving his feet well to skip around the ball and fire on the forehand wing.
But after a tight first set, the match slipped away from the Brit quickly as his serve was broken five times in the second and third sets, the Canadian sealing victory in just one hour and 55-minutes.
He faces Marin Cilic in the last 16 and will certainly have to be at his best if he wants to topple the Croatian, a former US Open champion, who caused the upset of the day by ousting the fifth seed Andrey Rublev, 7-5 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3.
The 33-year-old certainly played “the match of his life” with a performance which brought back the memories of his US Open run.
Cilic entered the match with a 1-4 record against Rublev, but the Croatian was virtually unplayable despite what the 7-5, 7-6 score-line in the first two sets would suggest.
A former finalist here in 2018, the big serving Croat was clubbing winners with remarkable ease and was impenetrable on serve leaving Rublev, a Melbourne quarter-finalist last year, floundering.
While Cilic’s form seemed to drop in the third allowing Rublev a foothold in the match, the 27th seed picked up his game in the fourth to storm to a remarkable victory which he celebrated by jumping high into the air.
“I’ve had a good start to the season, played two weeks of tennis in Adelaide, and I’ve had two good matches here before this one,” a beaming Cilic, who hit 55 winners, said in his on-court interview.
“The conditions in the evening were a bit cooler and allowed me to go more for my shots and I was really lining up a lot of them, especially the returns, it was really going well for me today.
“I’m feeling really excited, I’m playing amazing and just looking forward to the next match, which gets tougher and tougher with the opponents, but I will try to give it my best.”
Meanwhile the title favourite Daniil Medvedev eased through to the fourth round as did the fourth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas with the pair on track to meet in the semi-finals.
After the drama of Medvedev’s second-round victory over Nick Kyrgios and the partisan crowd, the 6-4 6-4 6-2 win over Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp proved to be a more comfortable affair for the second seed from Russia.
Medvedev was rarely extended during the hour and 55-minute encounter on the Margaret Court Arena.
Having told the crowd to respect players during his on-court interview afterousting Kyrgios, he had no need to make any complaints on this occasion.
“I’ll put it this way. It’s easier to play a guy from Netherlands than a guy from Australia in Australia, in Melbourne,” he said, before then offering some relationship advice to the fans.
“Every good relationship must have it’s ups and downs. I hope it’s going to be more good times than bad times, otherwise it doesn’t work!”
Medvedev, who reached the 2021 final, will be looking to go one step further this year, and revealed on Eurosport that his new dedication to fitness had contributed to his emergence as one of the dominant forces in men’s tennis.
“Well, I’m trying to do a lot with my fitness coach,” Medvedev said
“Maybe two or three years ago, we started to work really hard on this aspect of my game because there were many matches – even three-set matches – the first set would be tough and then [in the following set] I would drop down my level significantly.
“So sat down with my team and we’re like, ‘okay, this has to improve. We have to do better’. And yeah, I started to work really hard on the tennis court and I am very happy about it.”
He will next face the Melbourne Summer Set finalist, Americas Maxime Cressy, following his 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 6-2 victory over the Australian wild card Christopher O’Connell.
The Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas came into the tournament with concerns over an elbow problem but has not been hampered in anyway in his three matches this week defeating the French ‘Bad Boy’ Benoit Paire 6-3 7-5 6-7(2) 6-4.
“Benoit is one of the biggest challenges in our game,” Tsitsipas said after their match.
“He has a lot of talent and feel for the game, so it’s a very important victory for me today. It was special to play in this arena and share it with the crowd.”
Tsitsipas is now set for a fourth-round clash with Taylor Fritz after the American’s five-set win over Roberto Bautista Agut saw him reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in no less than 21 attempts.
“It’s huge,” Fritz said after his 6-0 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-3 victory.
“After the match I was close to tearing up a bit.
“It seems stupid because so many people have made the second week of Slams, but it has eluded me for so long. I’ve had a lot of tough draws and I’ve never had a great look at it.”
Italy’s rising star Jannik Sinner overcame Japans Taro Daniel 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-1 on the Kia Arena to book his place in the fourth round for the first time.
Sinner is seeded 11th and after two quick matches he had to work much harder against Daniel, who had beaten Andy Murray in the previous round.
His two-hour, 41-minute victory booked him a meeting with 32nd seed Alex de Minaur, the ‘Demon’ of Australian tennis.
The 22-year-old Aussie scored an impressive 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory against Spaniard Pablo Andujar in his third-round encounter on the Rod Laver Arena to reach the fourth round for the first time.
“It was pretty exciting to play here on Rod Laver Arena at 7pm and in front of the great Rod Laver himself,” De Minaur said.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling and I got the win, so what more can I ask for.”
Seeded 32, De Minaur’s growing confidence showed as he struck 34 winners to the Spaniards 19 in the two-hour and seven-minute encounter.
“I love playing here, the atmosphere is electric. There’s no place I’d rather be,” De Minaur said. “I’m in my home Slam, doing what I love. I’m living the dream.”
To progress any further De Minaur will have to get past world No.10 Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who has won both of their previous meetings, including the championship match at the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals.
“He’s a hell of a player,” De Minaur said during his on-court interview. “I’m just looking forward to another opportunity to come out in front of you guys and doing what I love to do.”