But Evans is a gamer, hooking a forehand cross, then sending a majestic backhand to the same corner for 2-5! He couldn’t could he? I don’t know because he’s just come in behind a serve and nailed a volley! 3-5! Alcaraz meanwhile, takes set two 6-1 and Gasquet wants to go home.
Oh dear. Evans tries a backhand drop on the return, trails 0-5, and Sonego is pretty much there. Forza Torino!
Back on 3, we’re into a fourth-set breaker, Sonego quickly reaching 3-0, while Alcaraz is making light work of Gasquent, now up 7-6 5-1.
Marino and Pegula are now away on Court, the latter in a peculiar predicament because the four players above her in the rankings, Swiatek, Sabalenka, Rybakina and Gauff, are so much better it seems impossible she’ll ever beat any of them when it really matters. And even below her, there are players with bigger weapons – Jabeur, Muchova, Ostapenko, Haddad Maia – therefore a much better chance of landing on a good day on the right day.
Gasquet has to fight through five deuces, but he’s now on the board in set two, down 1-3 as Alcaraz rushes through another hold. Meantime, Evans and Sonego are now 5-5 in the fourth, and I’m wincing in anticipation of a breaker, given the energy they’ve already expended.
You’ll not be surprised to learn that Alcaraz has broken and consolidated, to lead Gasquet 7-6 3-0, and Kyrgios wonders he might “abbreviate” his forehand on the faster surfaces to hit it better. He also suggests that the new big three will be Alcaraz, Sinner and Rune, noting that they’ve all got different personalities – Alcaraz is bubbly and childlike, Sinner serious and composed, Rune full of it. We shall see.
It took a fair old while, but Tomljanovic eventually won the first set against Martic 7-6(3) … before being broken immediately in set two.
Next on Court: Rebecca Marino v Jessica Pegula (5).
Have a look! Sonego can only smile – again – as, advantage up at 4-4, he’s powerless to do anything as a lush backhand passes him down the line. But a big forehand earns him another break point, Evans saves it, and this is such an intense match; he saves another, unfurls a monstrous inside-out forehand to finally make advantage having saved a succession of them, then Songeo nets a forehand and after seeing off seven break points in a game that lasted nearly 13 minutes, he’s still in the match, up 5-4 in the fourth!
That’s a big win for Zverev, who was properly tested so able to play himself into some decent form. He was much better in the fourth set than in the first and meets the qualifier, Lukas Klein, next.
Koepfer holds for 3-5, forcing Zverev to serve for the match, while Sonego again makes 0-30 and this time Evans can’t retrieve immediately, finding himself at 15-40. On Laver, meanwhile, Alcaraz raises set point with a huge forehand, then wins a net exchange and finishes with an overhead! I guess we knew it’d happen somehow and it did, a seriously enjoyable set (of tennis) going to the number two seed 7-5(5).
“Scary! Scary!” laughs Kyrgios as Gasquet lasers another backhand winner down the line. He then makes 4-3, but a poor approach allows Alcaraz to plonk a backhand on to his tootsies and we’re back on serve.
Alcaraz break immediately, but a majestic backhand return from Gasquet, down the line and into the corner, yanks it straight back and it’s now 2-2. Zverev, meanwhile, now leads Koewpfer 5-2 in the fourth, while Evans rebounds from 0-30 down to hold for 4-3, Sonego up by two sets to one.
…but obviously Alcaraz makes 30-all then wallops an ace, so when Gasquet swipes a backhand cross-court wide, we’ve got ourselves a tiebreak.
This Evans-Sonego match is still really good, though Evans probably wants to ignore someone nausing him up in the crowd. Leading 3-2 but trailing 2-1, he grouses to the umpire, then makes 30-all on his opponent’s serve; naturally, Sonego responds with yet another ace, then splatters a forehand down the line before following it in with a deft drop-volley. It’s 3-3 in the fourth now, while Zverev leads Koepfer 4-1 at the same stage and Alcaraz is serving at 5-6 15-30…
On Laver, Gasquet is still doing well, serving at 5-5 in the first, while Kyrgios notes that because Alcaraz is so good, he expects to come on court and play brilliantly all the time, and tennis isn’t like that. He does, though, say that Alcaraz’s bad day is his good day, which he knows isn’t true – though earlier, he advised that the youngster has the best body-language on tour, which is part of the same thing, Anyway, Gasquet bangs down an ace that gives him 6-5, and this is getting interesting.
Yeah, time’s up. Koepfer fights to hold, saving break points, but eventually Zverev leaps into a forehand, giving him a 4-6 6-3 7-6 2-0 lead. Given how well he serves, the assumption is that he closes out from here.
“He makes me excited about tennis,” Kyrgios says of Alcaraz, and that he’s eager to get back to play him, as I learn that much of the tactical wisdom he dispenses, he’s fed by Hawkeye. Still, he’s doing a good job of infusing that with his essential himness.
Leading 2-1 in set three but trailing 2-1 overall, Evans calls the trainer who massages his left knee but wirthout the need to a medical timeout.
I’d not been focusing on the Alcaraz match because the Zverev and Evans ones were at the end of sets, but our photo man, John Windmill, messaged to say that he’s enjoying Kyrgios’ co-commentary, and now I’m paying attention, so am I. It’s always great to hear active players seriously discuss their opponents, and he discusses Alcaraz’s willingness to return come in, noting that only Federer does that, and not at such tender years.
On Laver, Gasquet is hanging in there against Alcaraz – they’re 3-3 in the third, but in comms, Kyrgios notes that already it’s physical, and he reckons Gasquet is starting to gamble already, knowing he’s not got a long match of long rallies in his legs.
Evans shows decent moxie to save break points at the start of set four and hold. Had he been broken, he’d have been done for, but for now he’s still in the match.
When he really needs to, Zverev steps it up, the breaker featuring his best tennis of the match He takes it to three and now leads 4-6 6-3 7-6(3); Koepfer will have to go some to fightback from here.
Zverev does well to hang in a rally Koepfer controls, finding a cross-court backhand that incites his opponent to net. Mini-break to the number six seed, consolidated by a huge T-serve and a vicious forehand winner for a 4-2 lead.
Zverev duly hangs on to secure his breaker and usually you’d back his serve in such circumstance. But Koepfer is playing pretty much as well as he can and isn’t under anything like the same pressure, so who knows? Anyway, for now, it’s 1-1.
I said earlier that Sonego is enjoying the contest, and when Evans comes in to lazily send a backhand volley wide, that’s enough for a 6-2 set. Sonego leads 2-1, and looks by far the fresher man; I’d be surprised if he didn’t close out the match from here.
Koepfer’s playing so well, serving big and ramming forehands. He holds for 6-5, and Zverev must now do likewise for a third-set breaker. Evans, meanwhile, holds to love for 2-5; Sonego will now serve for set three, and Alcaraz makes it 1-1 in set one against Gasquet.
On Cain, Martic and Tomljanovic are away, Martic up 2-1 on serve.
Eventually, Gasquet holds for 1-0 while, on 3, the tide has turned, Sonego breaking Evans again for 4-1, then unfurling aces 15 and 16 of the match to make 30-0. Meantime, Zverev holds for 5-5 in the third, and it looks like we’re building to a huge breaker.
Koepfer and Zverev are still hammering away – Koepfer leads 5-4 in the third, on serve – while Sonego still leads Evans by a break up 3-1 in their third.
We were talking about one-handed backhands earlier and, on Laver, Gasquet, who has a gorgeous one, is away against Alcaraz, flipping one of insufficient depth that’s sent whizzing back past him. That makes 30-all, and serving in game one, he winds up having to fight through deuce.
Oh that’s nice, Nick Kyrgios is on comms for Alcaraz and talks about how happy he is for Kokkinakis, his best mate on tour. The Aussies love a brutal battle, he says, and they should call it Kyrgios Court when it gets like that.
Alcaraz, wearing a yellow vest, arrives on to Laver, while Sonego builds on his second-set win, breaking Evans immediately in set three – and remember we said earlier, Evans has no match-fitness of which to speak.
On Court, Koepfer is still giving Zverev plenty; they’re a set apiece and 3-3 in the third, neither able to take control.
Scenes on Cain! Kokkinakis meets Dimitrov next, in what should be another belter.
Next on Laver: Richard Gasquet v Carlos Alcaraz (2).
Back on 3, Evans dumps a forehand, and Sonego takes the breaker to eight, levelling the match at one set apiece. It’s a belter, is this – if you’re able to, get it on.
An excellent performance from the 2021 champ, who meets Wang Yafan next. It’s great to see her back, she properly enjoys the moment of victory, and though it’s hard to see how she beats the top three, whose power-games are probably too much, women’s tennis, though less wild than a few years ago, remains women’s tennis, so.
Excellent from Evans, who finds two colossal forehands then keeps his nerve under an overhead to save set point and make 6-6. And on the other side of the net, Sonego can’t help but smirk, enjoying the contest despite himself.
…while Raducanu serves for the match against Rogers…
Back on 3, Songeo has launched himself back into what’s a terrific breaker, making 6-5 … and now he’s serving at 6-5….
A decent workout for Rybakina, who looks in decent nick. She meets Blinkova next, and is a serious threat to win here.
“Re Americans using surnames as forenames,” writes Geoff Wignall, “Washington Irving, Grover Cleveland and Franklin Roosevelt came first to mind. So it’s been happening for a while.”
I think we can perhaos allow Franklin as a first name, but yes, agreed on the others.
Pliskova holds for 6-7 4-5, forcing Rybakina to serve for it; Evans now holds a second mini-break at 6-4 6-6 (4-0); Raducanu consolidates for 6-3 5-1; and Kokkinakis and Ofner are 7-7 in their super-breaker.
Back on Laver, Rybakina makes deuce on the Pliskova serve when leading 7-6 5-3, only to burn her first match point on advantage; Evans leads Sonego 3-0 in their second-set breaker, and has played the big points really well so far today.
Sonego sends Evans to the backhand corner, then coaxes a forehand winner down the line for 0-15. So Evans finds a big serve and makes 40-15, closing out for a breaker as Raducanu scurries superbly to stay in a break point before Rogers nets, giving her the double and a 6-3 4-1 lead.
On 3, Sonego holds for 6-5, forcing Evans to serve to stay in set two for a second time; in the crowd, I Granata noise him up.
When did Americans start converting surnames to first names? Just this morning, we’ve had Shelby Rogers and Mackenzie McDonald, we’ve also got Taylor Fritz and Sloane Stephens – and these are just off the top of my heed.
Kokkinakis and Ofner are playing a final-set tiebreak; when they’re done, Martic and tomljanovic will be out.
Zverev closes out, levelling his match with Koepfer at a set apiece.
Not in the first instance. First he goes wide with a forehand down the line, then Zverev sends him nashing out wide to open up the overhead putaway for deuce. Zverev, though, then goes long on the forehand … before finding a tremendous backhand winner from way back to make deuce again. Elsewhere, Rybakina consolidates and leads 7-6 3-2, Raducanu does likewise for 6-3 2-0, and Evans is serving at 6-4 4-5.
Superb from Koepfer! With Zverev serving for the set at 5-3, he unloads a huge forehand to find a glorious backhand angle, crosscourt, that gives him 15-40. Can he force the break-back?
Yeah, about that. At 30-40, Rybakina lands a backhand return on to the line, and Pliskova can’t retort, going long, meaning that’s a break for 7-6 2-1. Rybakina has played pretty well following a slow start, and assuming she sorts this from here, will be grateful for a decent workout. Raducanu, meanwhile, has broken Rogers after a succession of deuces, to lead her 6-3 1-0, and isn’t it great to see her back, enjoying her tennis.
Sonego is from Turin and has Torino fans supporting him in the arena – he played for them as a kid before choosing tennis at 13. He trails Dan Evans 6-4 3-4 but it’s a very serious battle, likewise on Laver where Pliskova hasn’t crumbled – and let’s be real, she has before – after ceding a set she might well have won. Rybakina leads her 7-6 1-1, and it’s tight.