One hurdle too far
Dan Evans failed to make British tennis history when he was defeated by Gilles Muller in the Sydney International final and emulate Jo Konta who did just that the previous day in the womenÈs.
I donÈt think I lost it. I think he won it, to be honest
Victory for both at Sydney would have meant the first double at an event in the Open Era for British players but MullerÈs 7-6(5) 6-2 win put an end to that!
It was also the first final for Evans on the ATP Tour as opposed to Muller who had failed in all of his five previous visits to a final so victory in the last warm-up event for the Australian Open, was a major boost for the 33-year-old Luxembourg player.
He raised his arms in triumph when he converted his third championship point after nearly 90-minutes of play.
"Wow, what a night, I’ve waited a long time for this," the world number 34 said after receiving the trophy from Australian tennis great Rod Laver.
It roved an emotional moment for Muller who apologised for his tears. "I’m sorry. It just means so much to me to win the first time on the ATP in front of my boys and my wife."
The match was a close-run thing in the first set which could have gone either way, even in the tie-break.
But Evans, who had been forced into three set matches all through the week, simply ran out of steam in the second as MullerÈs serve and volley approach took its toll.
The Briton was broken twice and even then, it might well have turned tanks to nerves overtaking Muller as he served for it, double faulting on his first match point and then making an error in the second with his first serve letting him down on the third!
Evans though, then made an error on the second to finally hand victory to his higher ranked opponent.
"Well done to Gilles, I was hoping it was going to be six losses in finals but it wasn’t to be," Evans later said to the new champion, rather cheekily!
However Evans, who beat the top seed Dominic Thiem earlier in the week, leaves Sydney for Melbourne with the highest ranking of his career at 51, was philosophical.
"I donÈt think I lost it. I think he won it, to be honest. He served too good. Obviously the first-set tie-break was a big one. It would have sort of been tough for him to regain focus and go again if IÈd won the first set, but I didnÈt. He was good front-runner.
ItÈs just sport, isnÈt it? I said yesterday heÈs got a great serve. He showed it today."
Evans will next face Argentine Facundo Bagnis in his first match at the Australian Open on Monday.
Muller will also improve his ranking to 30 for the first time in his career. "I wasn’t expecting that," he said. " Just unbelievable. Everything that happened tonight was like in a movie. Rod Laver there, standing on centre court with the trophy, my kids in the stands, can’t ask for more."
In the men’s doubles final, Briton Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lost 6-3 7-5 to Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop.