British No 1 Dan Evans suffered a 3rd round defeat at the Winston-Salem Open at the hands of France’s Richard Gasquet, bringing his preparations ahead of the US Open to a halt.
I had confidence after winning the first set. I fought a lot in the second set, he started to play better, to be more aggressive and I tried to fight so it was important for me to win the second set. The third [set], you never know what could happen, so I'm really happy with how I played. Richard Gasquet
The 35-year-old Frenchman served 8 aces on his way to a 6-4 7-6(4) victory over the No 3 seed at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
Evans, 31, had endured a run of 4 successive defeats since his 3rd-round exit at Wimbledon but beat France’s Lucas Pouille in the previous round.
The World No 27, who made early exits in Washington, Toronto, Cincinnati and now at Winston-Salem, joins Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie in the men’s singles main draw at Flushing Meadows next week.
Evans missed his chance to take the match into a decider after leading 4-1 in the second set, eventually going on to lose in the breaker.
He was broken in the very first game of the match and soon found himself 3-1 down, but despite battling back, Gasquet held his nerve to take the opening set.
The Brit responded strongly and was coasting towards setting up a decider when Gasquet, the 14th seed, won 3 games in a row to level at 4-4 in the second, before holding his serve twice to stay in the set, and then securing the tiebreak, which he won by a clear margin.
Gasquet will now meet Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori, a 6-4 4-6 6-1 winner over compatriot, 12th seed Benoit Paire.
“I had confidence after winning the first set,” Gasquet said. “I fought a lot in the second set, he started to play better, to be more aggressive and I tried to fight so it was important for me to win the second set.
“The third [set], you never know what could happen, so I’m really happy with how I played.
“I’m playing well. I won two difficult matches, especially with the conditions – it’s very hot and humid – so it’s always a tough battle for everyone but I managed to win and I hope to do the same tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Spain’s 18-year old Carlos Alcaraz erased a second-set blip to see off 4th seed Marton Fucsovics for a place in the quarter-finals, 6-3 0-6 6-2.
Alcaraz steadied the ship after he lost the second set in 30 minutes, breaking in the opening game of the deciding set to grab the momentum, which he carried to the finish line after the 2 hour 7 minute battle.
“Well it has been a great match, a really, really tough match,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “In the second set I went down absolutely… and I went up [on] my serve a little bit to start the third… I [thought] I could do it. Really happy to get the win.
“In this match, I didn’t feel comfortable playing the long rallies. I started to… hit as hard as I can to try to make the points shorter.”
The Spaniard booked a meeting with American Marcos Giron, who was a 4-6 6-3 6-3 winner over Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Giron’s compatriot Frances Tiafoe backed up his victory over Andy Murray on Tuesday with another straight-sets triumph, this time over Brazilian Thiago Monteiro, 7-5 7-6(2), after an hour 42 minutes.
“It was two tight sets, quick sets I felt like. I was holding pretty swiftly but would not be happy to be playing a third set,” Tiafoe said. “Tonight I served unbelievable…. If you can loosen up from the back a little you can go for it because you’re so confident. Hopefully I can serve like that the rest of the week.”
He will next meet Swede Mikael Ymer, a 7-5 6-2 winner over Australian lucky loser Max Purcell.
Elsewhere, top seed Pablo Carreno Busta claimed his 3rd win from as many hard-court events against Dominik Koepfer to reach his quarter-final spot, 6-2 6-3.
The Spaniard, who won here in 2016, backed up his wins over the German at the Tokyo Olympics and at last week’s Western & Southern Open, and also beat World No 1 Novak Djokovic for the bronze medal in Tokyo.
“It was a very good match. I think I played very aggressively today, I made a lot of winners,” Carreno Busta said. “I played against him the last two tournaments so it was important to me at the beginning of the match to be very focused and play very aggressive so I think this was a very good match for me.
“I’m feeling really comfortable playing this year, also. We know next we have the US Open but day by day I need the confidence, I need the rhythm. I think that I’m playing at a really good level so I would like to continue this way.”
His win sets up a clash with Belarusian Ilya Ivashka, an earlier 6-2 6-1 winner over another German, 9th seed, Jan-Lennard Stuff.