Dan Evans’ run of upsets has continued in Montreal with a stirring 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over American Tommy Paul that has the Birmingham right-hander through to an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final for the second time in as many years.
However the dream of an all-British semi-final fizzled earlier in the day with Jack Draper’s straight-sets 7-6, 6-1 defeat by Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.
Both Evans and Paul were unseeded entering this National Bank Open only to progress with shock wins over more fancied opponents to set up their quarter final showdown. Evans’ steely form in the early rounds had seen him knock out the eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev to progress to the round of 16 and, one day later, dismantle American 10th seed Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7), 1-6, 7-5 to make the quarter-final.
But although only five ranking places separated them, it was Paul, the world No 34, who took early control, breaking Evans’ serve with his pacy returns and powerful ground strokes, to run away with the first set 1-6.
Even then Evans didn’t lose heart. “I just didn’t think he could carry that on,” he said later of his opponent’s blistering start. “If he did, I had to walk off and shake his hand.”
Instead, Evans rediscovered the victorious formula of his earlier rounds, capitalising on the slightest of openings in the second set to break Paul and snatch back the ascendency by taking the next set 6-3 and forcing the game into a decider.
The 32-year-old then secured an early lead in the third, crucially escaping a 15-40 clutch moment to move within one game of victory at 5-3. One match point went begging in spectacular fashion on return as Evans absorbed a flurry of Paul backhand passes on serve before the Briton completed the turnaround by serving it out.
Evans saved six of eight break points in the two-hour-17-minute contest as he withstood 41 winners from Paul, who had stunned second seed Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday, and entered this quarter-final a heavy favourite.
“The crowd, that’s what they buy their tickets for. That’s live sport,” enthused Evans in his post-match press conference. “You never know what’s going to happen. It was an amazing match, amazing atmosphere. I played on the court before. In the day it was amazing, but at night, there’s something about playing sport at night, it’s extra special.”
Earlier, Jack Draper found himself under siege early from world No 23 Pablo Carreno Busta. However the 20-year-old world No 82 showed courage under fire to save three break points in each of his first two service games with spectacular shot-making.
The 31-year-old Spaniard eventually edged ahead, only to drop serve for the first time in the week as he tried to serve out the opening set at 5-4. That’s when Draper unleashed a fresh barrage of powerful forehands to push the set into a tiebreaker.
Down 1-3, Carreno Busta regrouped to steal that first set from his younger opponent. He then drove home his advantage with a break to love early in the second, an array of lasered passing shots and a 94 per cent conversion rate on attack demolishing Draper’s attempted fightback as the Spaniard rushed to the finish line.
But the British wunderkind refused to yield. Buoyed by his maiden victory over a top 10 player earlier in the week, a thrilling defeat of world No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, Draper created a second break point in the match’s final game.
But Carreno Busta held his nerve to save it, and then converted a third match point to claim victory after one hour, 57 minutes to book a date with Evans in the semi-final.