Dan Evans’ hopes of breaking into the world’s top 20 next week were given a major boost as he moved into round three of Indian Wells with an impressive win over Kei Nishikori.
The British number one hit back from a set down to claim a hard-fought 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory in two hours and 48 minutes.
Speaking during an on-court post-match interview, Evans admitted he was delighted to come out on top in a high calibre encounter.
Rolex Paris Masters
Norrie storms into Paris Masters second round, Evans beaten by Bublik
“I could feel it in the match. There weren’t many errors out there and it was difficult. Trying to impose my game on Kei was tough and I had to be really aggressive with my forehand and play to the end range of my power. It was difficult, but I got some joy in the end and I’m happy to come through.
“I was trying to slice and hit but got it wrong in the first set. I was wary of him running around getting on his best shot. I wouldn’t say it worked overall, but I got there in the end.
I didn’t find it that slow, but Kei plays close to the baseline and it was good conditions I thought.
Evans will now meet No.11 seed Diego Schwartzman in round three and will be hoping to avenge a three-set loss to the Argentine at the Cincinnati Masters earlier this year.
He added: “I wasn’t in the best physical condition that day. I’m feeling good now. He makes it physical and I wasn't good enough that day. He’ll do it again in hot conditions and I know what to expect, hopefully it’ll be a similar game to today."
- Murray sets up Alcaraz clash with win over Mannarino
- ‘I don’t have her number but…!’ – Murray responds after Swiatek calls him dream hitting partner
- Raducanu did not have 'enough fire' in loss to Sasnovich, says Keothavong
Evans, who arrived at the event at no 22 in the ATP rankings, made a solid start on serve but came unstuck in the fifth game of the opening set when Nishikori followed up a sizzling return with a clever drop shot to claim the first break of the match. It began a run of three breaks in a row as Evans’ fine work in snatching the break right back was immediately undone by another vintage return game from the Japanese world no 53.
Nishikori then kept his opponent at arm’s length with some patient rallying to consolidate before going close to breaking Evans for a third time. The former world number four finally got the job done as he served out the opener to love in 53 minutes.
Evans responded with real bravery in Set 2, returning aggressively and easing through his service games. The Brit had break opportunities throughout but was frustrated by clutch tennis on key points from Nishikori before finally snaring the crucial breakthrough in Game 6. The Japanese fought off four break points but eventually succumbed when Evans produced a brilliant, improvised backhand down the line.
The No.18 seed did not take his foot off the gas from there and served it out 6-3 to force a decider.
Nishikori looked to shift the momentum and moved up a few gears at the start of Set 3, narrowly failing to make an early breakthrough as Evans dug deep to fend off two break points and level at 1-1.
Neither player looked set to budge until Evans took advantage of some misfiring forehands from his opponent to snare a vital break and lead 4-3 before consolidating with ease.
Evans then served out the match, saving two break back points along the way, to set up an intriguing clash with Schwartzman.
Norrie beats Evans in all-British clash to reach quarters in San Diego
Murray beats world No.10 Hurkacz to reach Vienna Open second round
Indian Wells order of play - Murray faces Zverev, Swiatek, Tsitsipas in action