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Roger Federer fights off spirited Dan Evans to reach Australian Open third round

From Metro UK

The Swiss came through (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Dan Evans put up a real fight against defending champion Roger Federer but came up short in a straight sets defeat to the world No. 3.

The Brit, making his first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam since testing positive for cocaine back in 2017, stormed through qualifying and into the second round to face the all-conquering Swiss and gave a good account of himself on the Rod Laver Arena.

His performance was all the more impressive when one considers just how far he’s come since April last year, when a returning Evans, then without a ranking, lost to Austrian world No. 331 Lucas Miedler.

Of course, it was unlikely he would ever take out Federer but he can certainly take confidence from the 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 defeat heading into the rest of the season as he looks to rebuild his ranking.

Evans was beaten after a great fight (Picture: AFP/Getty)

Evans will rise to just outside the world’s top-160 and will become British No. 3 once the rankings are next released.

The 28-year-old Brummie appeared relaxed in his surroundings and felt comfortable enough to share a joke with the 20-time major winner over a crying baby in the stands midway through the second.

He had his chances, too. He served for the first-set tiebreak at 5-4, while fought his way back from a break down in the second to force another breaker before the third eventually ran away from him.

Federer was scheduled for a day match at Melbourne Park for just the third time in the last three years, but the conditions were not close to the sweltering heat endured by players in the first two days.

Rain fell on the court (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Indeed, it was rather cool – some might go as far as to say slightly nippy – and there was even a brief stoppage for rain during the first set.

The DJ opted to play Blur song ‘Parklife’ as the background music for their knock-up – a song perhaps more befitting the Brit than the Swiss – and the crowd made it clear rather that they would be backing tennis royalty rather than a relative pauper.

It certainly would have required the mother of all upsets for Evans to come through this one. Federer had never lost to a player ranked as low as the world No. 189 at a Grand Slam and the last time he lost to a player below that figure came 19 years ago to then No. 191 James Sekulov.

In the same year, Federer suffered his worst defeat, by ranking at least, at Melbourne Park, crashing out in round three to 54th-ranked Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Evans put up a fight (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

One optimistic member of the Aussie crowd shouted, ‘You got this, Dan!’ and the Brit obliged by thumping down an ace on his way to a hold to love in his opening service game.

It was the start of a six-point winning streak for the Briton and he remained competitive throughout the first set.

At 4-4 there was a break in play as rain came down on the Rod Laver Arena but neither saw their rhythm disturbed after the delay as Evans forced a breaker.

He will perhaps feel he should have taken the tiebreak. Serving with a mini break in his pocket at 5-4 he missed two volleys. Federer didn’t need a second invitation to snatch a one-set lead.

Federer got his nose in front (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Evans needed treatment for blisters (Picture: Getty Images)

In the change of ends, the British No. 1 received treatment for blisters on both feet. When play resumed, he was broken for the first time in the match as the 37-year-old Swiss assumed control.

Evans wasn’t done, though. A glorious backhand passing shot that even Federer would be proud of saw him break the six-time champion to level for 5-5, with the Swiss failing to serve out the set.

A second tiebreak followed, which was more routine for the Swiss.

Federer broke early in the third, with Evans cheekily trying to tag the 37-year-old at the net before his opponent ducked to allow the ball to sail long as he went on to wrap up a hard-fought win.

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