June 27, 2020
Dan Evans is one courageous Englishman. He may not be as popular as Andy Murray but you cannot fault his spirit.
All but destroyed in the first set and 1-4 down in the decisive breaker, still Evans refused to be beaten.
The 1-6, 6-3, 10-8 final scoreline showed who wanted it most.
Murray will still be happy with his form this week. He would have settled for a close semi-final when we started on Tuesday.
Wimbledon 2021 is where he really wants to hit his peak. Andy has a year to build towards his finest form. The signs are good.
But it was the current British number one who took the spoils this time.
Now Evans will play Kyle Edmund, who beat Cameron Norrie 6-7, 6-4, 10-8 in the other semi-final.
After his own victory a thrilled Evans said: ‘In the end it came down to the big points. I was lucky out there but just pleased to come through.
‘He hardly missed a ball in the first set. You always know Andy is going to come out and play some big tennis.’
We began by admiring that explosive brand of tennis from Murray. We ended up admiring the sheer willpower of the irrepressible Evans.
Murray came out with all guns blazing and almost blasted Evans off court at first.
He was three games up in the blink of an eye. Andy had stepped up with such surprising aggression that everyone – including Dan – was taken aback.
Huge first serves, superb movement, confident strokeplay from well inside the baseline.
This was the form of a two-time Wimbledon champion!
The energy from Murray was extraordinary. You’d never have known this was his fourth match in five days.
Evans did try to claw his way back into that stunning first set while he still had half a chance. The Midlander had break points for 2-3.
But Murray simply stayed cool and picked his shots successfully under pressure.
Once he had thwarted that comeback, the former world number one seemed ready to press home his superiority.
That first set was described by Andy’s coach, Jamie Delgado as the best he had seen for a long time.
Murray closed out in crushing style. That 6-1 scoreline was an emphatic reminder of what he can achieve next year at Wimbledon.
Indeed we wondered whether this particular match might be very short indeed.
But Evans wasn’t prepared to be blown off court for long. He found a much better rhythm at the start of the second and took the ball earlier.
Suddenly Dan was the one dictating points. He put the Scot under all kinds of pressure with clever slices and variations of pace.
In a few minutes the tables had been turned. Murray was 4-1 down and that bullet serve had temporarily deserted him.
From an average speed of 122mph in the opener, he dropped down to 114mph. It was a similar story with his decreasing top-spin.
Andy had gone off the boil.
Digging deep, Murray managed to save break points to hold serve and stay in touch.
But pretty soon he was serving to stay in the second set. The momentum had shifted.
Murray’s balance seemed to have gone. So had his aim. Evans had four set points. Andy served his way out of trouble to go 3-5.
Could Evans hold his nerve to level the match? A lethal drop-shot gave him the platform and two more set points came calling.
The Englishman accepted the second chance with a marvelously dismissive forehand.
We were into a deciding “match tie-break.”
Could Murray raise his game again just in time?
He enjoyed the first mini-break to go 2-0. A killer backhand volley and a sweetly-timed forehand made it 4-1.
Andy had found another vein of form but yelled in exasperation when a near-winner was called narrowly out.
Murray appealed pointlessly when Evans served down the middle to go 4-3.
This epic wasn’t over. Especially when Murray massively over-hit a forehand.
Evans produced some superhuman defence to level again at 5-5. You had to admire his guts and determination.
He read a Murray lob early and smashed himself into the lead with a delighted fist-pump.
More unbelievable defensive work then handed Evans a key break. He was mentally stronger on the day.
Murray eventually ran out of poise and pulled a forehand to gift Evans two match points.
On the second of those, the less celebrated player claimed victory with a dipping backhand that clipped and cleared the net before conveniently hitting the line.
A little lucky maybe. But Evans was brave enough to make his own luck.
Andy Murray’s Battle of the Brits adventure was over. But what a ride it had been.
Everything we have seen from Murray this week suggests he can go deep at Wimbledon 2021.
He looks sure to be back in full swing in plenty of time.
Meanwhile Edmund sounds confident that be can beat Evans in the Battle of the Brits final.
Kyle said: ‘”Evo” is currently British number one but I’m finding ways.’
With 24 winners against Norrie and nine break points successfully defended, Edmund did just that. And he found two exquisite backhands to wrap up the match.
The final should be a cracker.
But by the time Andy Murray is fully fit, he should be capable of beating both Brits who scraped past him to do battle in this event’s Sunday showpiece.