Dan Evans’s run of upsets has continued in Montreal with a stirring 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over the American Tommy Paul that has the Birmingham right-hander through to an ATP Masters 1000 semi-final for the second time in two years. However, the dream of an all-British semi-final fizzled out earlier with Jack Draper’s straight-sets defeat by Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta.
Both Evans and Paul were unseeded entering this Canadian Open, only to progress with shock wins over more fancied opponents to set up their quarter-final showdown. Evans’s steely form in the early rounds had seen him knock out the eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev to progress to the last 16 and, one day later, dismantle the American Taylor Fritz, seeded 10, 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’s serve with his pacy returns and powerful ground strokes, to run away with the first set. Even then Evans did not 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 contest over two hours and 17 minutes as he withstood 41 winners from Paul, who had stunned the 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, Draper found himself under siege early from Carreño Busta, the world No 23. 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. Draper unleashed a fresh barrage of powerful forehands to push the set into a tiebreak.
Down 3-1, Carreño 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 laser passing shots and a 94% conversion rate on attack demolishing Draper’s attempted fightback as the Spaniard rushed to the finish line.
The British youngster still refused to yield. Buoyed by his maiden victory over a top 10 player earlier in the week, a thrilling defeat of the world No 5, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Draper created a second break point in the match’s final game.
But Carreño Busta held his nerve to save it, and then converted a third match point to claim victory after one hour and 57 minutes, booking a date with Evans in the semi-final.
Hubert Hurcacz will take on Casper Ruud in the other semi-final. Hurcacz beat Nick Kyrgios 7-6, (4) 6-7, (5) 6-1 in their quarter-final, while Ruud dispatched Félix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-2.