It was a busy day at the European Open which saw Dan Evans, the British No.1, and Cameron Norrie, the national number three, clear their first hurdle challenges provided by two Antwerp qualifiers
I wouldn’t say it’s a blow, Hilts is… it’s a bit of a decision for him. It’s not an easy decision, he has family, he is married, maybe he didn’t want to travel so much, I don’t know Dan Evans
Playing at the same time on adjacent courts, Evans, who had lost his last five matches, fought through to quell a spirited performance from the Italian Salvatore Carusso 6-2 3-6 6-3 and then announced he would be parting company with coach Mark Hilton.
That news was a surprise as the two had a successful relationship prior to his unfortunate drug ban in 2017, and when they reunited a year ago, Hilton guided him to a career-high ranking of 28 in March.
Whilst his results have not been that good since the lockdown was lifted, it seems working for the LTA is a better attraction and he will take that up at the end of this season.
“After discussing our plans for 2021, Dan and I have made the mutual decision to part ways at the end of November,” Hilton, 39, said on the news.
“Both of us are very proud of our collaboration this year, helping Dan achieve a career-high ranking of number 28, seven wins over top-20 players and reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final.
“I’m looking forward to taking the experience I have gained over the last three years at the highest levels of the ATP Tour and re-investing that back into the LTA’s Performance Team for the benefit of our British players and coaches.”
Evans added via Instagram: “I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his work and efforts over the past 12 months and we are both excited for what is next for each of our respective careers.”
Speaking later, Evans expanded on the decision
“We stopped by mutual consent last week,’ the British No.1 said in Metro. ‘Hilts is going to go back to the LTA.
“There was a secondment agreement with the LTA and then I didn’t want to carry that on for one reason or another and I simply asked him if he wanted to, and he wanted to go back into the LTA so he wanted to stick with the federation and for security that’s understandable. So that’s basically it.
“There’s nothing more to it than that, we didn’t fall out it was just simply he didn’t want to go privately with me. Which is perfectly understandable in his situation.
“I can hand on heart tell you I’ll still be playing golf with him and still speak to him. So before you get your normal stuff there’s no issues there at all. It’s a decision we came to and we are both fine with.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a blow,’ added Evans. ‘Hilts is… it’s a bit of a decision for him. It’s not an easy decision, he has family, he is married, maybe he didn’t want to travel so much, I don’t know.”
British interest in an event which has been won by UK players these past two years (Kyle Edmund 2018 and Andy Murray 2019) was also kept alive by Norrie who beat Finn Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3 7-6(4) after recovering from 5-2 down in the second set.
Evans will be facing Frances Tiafoe in the second round while Norrie is likely to have the fifth seed Milos Raonic as his next opponent provided the big Canadian progresses past former Brit Aljaz Bedene now of Slovenia.
In other matches eighth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia rallied to defeat Richard Gasquet of France winning 3-6 7-6(5) 6-3 in two hours and 18-minutes, recovering from 5-4 in the second set when Gasquet served for the match.
Belgium’s Zizou Bergs defeated Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 7-5 7-5; Spaniard Pablo Andujar beat Argentine Federico Coria, 6-2 6-3; Marcos Giron defeated Italy’s Luca Nardi, 4-6 6-4 6-1; and South Africa’s Lloyd Harris beat Frenchman Corentin Moutet, 7-5 6-2.
On a rainy day in Cologne, Italy’s rising star Jannik Sinner marked his debut at the ‘bett1HULKS Championship’ in Cologne, Germany by beating James Duckworth in convincing fashion 6-1 6-2 and after his victory, spoke to the media.
“It’s been a tough year, obviously we are playing tennis but the most important thing is friends and family; it’s a messy year especially in Italy in the beginning everything was very bad, I tried to help, it’s tough to see the world how it’s going on, I think the ATP Tour is doing a good job to make these tournaments happen and playing without fans it’s not what we want”.
In other action Australia’s John Millman will face top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany after dispatching Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-2 in one-hour and 39-minutes; Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina beat Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Damir Dzumhur, 6-2 6-3; France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert rallied to defeat Tennys Sandgren, 6-3 3-6 6-2, in two hours and 17-minutes;and Germany’s Oscar Otte beat Austria’s Dennis Novak, 6-3 6-2.