Birmingham ace digs deep to oust gutsy Aussie
Dan Evans, the defending champion and top seed, required two tiebreaks and calm nerves to secure his 2nd Round slot at the Nottingham Open.
The Birmingham 31-year-old struggled past gutsy Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6 7-6(1) 7-6 (5) in the first British grass court tournament since Wimbledon 2019.
World no.27 Evans, who replaced injured twice Wimbledon champion Andy Murray as a last-gasp wildcard following his French Open 1st Round exit, was slow off the marks against the Australian 25-year-old.
Kokkinakis, who captured the Biella 6 ATP Challenger title on clay in Italy last month, played with sheer confidence and style to claim the opening set.
The second set became a closely-fought battle until the tiebreak, which Evans dominated. But the British no.1 could not maintain his momentum with the decisive set forced to another tiebreak, which Evans edged to move into the last 32 at the expense of his little-known world-ranked no.180.opponent.
Aside from Evans, the only players inside the world’s top 100 to compete at this year’s Nottingham Open are USA’s France Tiafoe (no.73), Italy’s Andreas Seppi (no.93) and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson (no.96).
Evans admitted: “It was a difficult match, but it was not as stressful as the [final] scoreline suggested.
“I was enjoying it out there. Thanasi is a great player, it was positive to play someone so good so early in the tournament.”