Evans beats Rublev in bloody battle to reach first ATP Tour 500 semi-final

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Britain’s Dan Evans reached his first ever ATP 500 semi-final after coming out on top of a bloody battle against Andrey Rublev at the Dubai Duty Free tennis championships.

Having become frustrated by the excellent all-court variation of Evans’ play, Rublev smacked his fist into the strings of his racket, drawing blood from his knuckles on the way to a 6-2, 7-6 defeat.

“I made a mess of some of the match points, especially when it came to serve for it but it’s take it to the next point, sounds like a cliché but stay in there and I knew I’d get my chances and I executed very well today and I’m happy with how I played,” said Evans following victory.

“Staying calm is key to everyone, really, and getting the balance. You can’t be calm and dull and slow. I’ve got to be aggressive with my feet and stay cool as well. It’s difficult but I’m happy with the variation so I’m happy to come through.”

It was Evans who started the better. Despite playing over five hours of tennis in his three set victories over Fabio Fognini and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the Brit looked fresh and broke Rublev in the opening game, fashioning three break points before converting with a huge forehand return into the ad corner.

Mixing his game up nicely with his trademark sliced backhand and drawing the Russian in with drop shots, Evans continued in the manner that has taken him this far in the prestigious Dubai event.

Both Evans and Rublev are vocal, volatile players, but it was the Russian who was the first to become visibly frustrated, shrugging and wincing with every line his opponent hit. Another break point at 3-1 was Evans’ reward for consistency and the double break was secured as Rublev shanked a forehand long.

Such was Rublev’s frustration at losing an entertaining net exchange, he pounded the strings of his racket to such an extent that he drew blood from his knuckles. And when Evans wrapped up the set after a gruelling 12-minute game, it was not only his hands that were cause for concern.

Rublev came out on top in their only previous meeting, another three-set encounter in Adelaide earlier in the year. And he would again have to do things the hard way if he was to progress any further this time around.

Again, it was Evans who began the stronger in the second, heavy hitting earning four more break points on the opening Rublev serve. It was a chance he couldn’t convert, as Rublev hung tough before gaining the first break of the second set after another long game. It looked as if the efforts of two long matches may begin to take its toll on Evans, but the Brit wasn’t done yet, breaking straight back before forging further ahead, drawing the error with another chip charge to break again.

Confidence surging through his veins, Evans was playing the kind of all court tennis that took him to match points against eventual US Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in 2016.

Then, serving for a place in the semi-final, a first wobble. Showing visible signs of nerves, a double fault and wayward groundstrokes allowed the Russian a path back into the match and the second set would be decided on a tie break.

Evans saved three match points against Hubert in his last breaker and carried that confidence forward, drawing his opponent in before passing up the line for the first mini break after a 26-shot rally.

Again, just as the Brit seemed to have seized control of the match, a third double fault a 5-5 gifted a set point that Rublev couldn’t accept, Evans attacking the Russian’s serve to earn a first match point himself.

And, having squandered another on the Rublev serve, Evans finally emerged triumphant as Rublev blasted long after 2 hours and 11 minutes.

“It’s what we train for, to last five matches in these events, so I’m ready to go,” added Evans, who now plays the winner of Jan-Lennard Struff and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Friday’s semi-final.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Level: ATP 500

Surface: Hard

Defending Champion: Roger Federer

Prize Money: $2.9

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