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Evans Shocks World No. 1 Djokovic at Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

“To be honest, this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years,” said world No. 1 Novak Djokovic after losing his first match of 2021 to Daniel Evans in his home event in Monte-Carlo. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

Neighborhood resident Novak Djokovic has home-schooled the elite for years at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

Today, Dan Evans dispensed clever combinations showing Djokovic the door in scoring the most stirring victory of his life.

Unleashing an unsettling mix of force and finesse, Evans displaced Djokovic then evicted the world No. 1 from his home court scoring a shocking 6-4, 7-5 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters victory to reach his first career Masters quarterfinal.

The 33rd-ranked Evans handed Djokovic his first loss in 11 matches this season playing thoughtful tennis and exuding more emotional intensity throughout.

It was the best of times and worst of times on opposing sides of the net as Evans, armed with four career clay-court wins, pulled off the best win of his career, while Djokovic conceded this was his worst performance in years.

“It’s obviously my best win,” Evans told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “It’s such a difficult surface so many things you have to get right, sliding, moving volleying it’s so difficult.

“I find it difficult. I’m working day by day to get better. It’s extra satisfying to beat Novak—especially on clay.”

It was a superb display of all-court tennis from Evans, who broke serve five times and saved a set point in the 10th game of the second set with dizzying drop shots and dynamic drives.

“It’s obviously my biggest win,” said Daniel Evans after handing Novak Djokovic his first loss of the season to reach his first Masters quarterfinal. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

Playing on his home court, the 36-time Masters champion looked as out of sorts as a man returning home after a long road trip to find all the furniture in his living room rearranged: everything once so familiar seemed oddly out of place.

“Congratulations to him. I mean, he deserved to win. He was a better player,” Djokovic said. “Just more focused I guess and played with a better quality in the decisive moments. To be honest, I mean, this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years.

“I don’t want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It’s one of those days.”

The 33-year-old Djokovic opened the match gifting the break by slapping a couple of double faults, couldn’t find the range on his normally rock-solid two-handed backhand and double-faulted away the final break to give Evans a 6-5 lead.

Still, given the monumental challenge Evans faced the fact that he kept his cool and continued befuddling the Australian Open champion with an array of spins and speeds speaks to his strong self belief. All this from a man who was unranked in April of 2018 after serving a drug suspension for a positive cocaine test and who freely admits clay is his least favorite surface.

Evans was stronger between the ears and that was vital to topping the reigning Wimbledon winner between the lines.

“Well, a little bit beforehand, since yesterday [I didn’t feel well]. I don’t want to talk about it,” Djokovic said. “Should have and could have done much, much better. I mean, just awful performance. I can’t take anything positive away from this match.

“I mean, just one of these things you have to accept. I guess you have to move on. It’s not the first neither the last loss, but definitely leaves a bitter feeling exiting the court this way.”

Throughout the match, Evans exerted the right balance of attack and subtlety. He stepped into the court rushing his opponent with a forehand to earn double break point. Waiting for a gust of wind to subside before a second serve, Djokovic sailed his fourth double fault donating the break and a 6-5 lead.

Sifting another superb drop shot winner put Evans up 30-15. The Briton wisely stretched Djokovic with a backhand pass then slipped a forehand pass down the line closing in two hours, six minutes.

Next up for Evans is 2017 Monte-Carlo semifinalist David Goffin, who toppled Alexander Zverev 6-4, 7-6(7) leaving the fifth-seeded German spiking his Head racquet to the dirt in disgust. Evans expects to attack net more against Goffin than he did bouncing the top seed today. 

“He’s a really tough competitor,” Evans said of the Belgian. “He’ll make me win the match he’s not going to give me much.

“I imagine I’ll have to come forward a bit more than today. I was not scared to come in, but I was worried he was going to get it low put a few by me. So tomorrow, I’ll be coming forward a bit more hopefully.”