An eventful week for Dan Evans in Antwerp came to an unsatisfactory end as he failed to convert four match points against France’s Ugo Humbert to miss the chance to progress to what would have been his third ATP Tour final.
Evans produced some typically canny tennis throughout, claiming the first set and then moving in to a 6-3 lead in the second-set tie-break. But he lost his rhythm when it mattered most, and Humbert – a flashy left-hander with a devastating forehand – took advantage.
In what was almost a mirror image of Evans’s quarter-final comeback against Karen Khachanov – only without the disputed line calls – Humbert capitalised on his opponent’s frustration by breaking early in the deciding set and then held on for a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 win.
For Evans, the pain will be all the greater because his most recent defeat – against Stan Wawrinka in St Petersburg – had come after holding three match points. On that occasion, Wawrinka was serving at 0-40 at the time. Statistics show that escapes from 0-40 down are not uncommon among the leading players; indeed some manage to do it around a third of the time.
On Saturday, though, three of Evans’s match points against Humbert came on his own serve. On the second of those, he committed a double-fault – a demoralising error which he had not previously made. On the first match point, Humbert had produced a brilliant backhand winner up the line. The other two ended in Evans misses.
The defeat ended the possibility of what would have been a cherished statistic for British tennis lovers. Had Evans gone on to win this title, he would have been the third different Briton to do so in as many years.
Kyle Edmund triumphed in Antwerp in 2018, landing his first ATP title here. And then, 12 months ago, Andy Murray enjoyed his miraculous autumnal flowering on this same court. Ironically, Murray’s semi-final victim last year was also Humbert, whom he beat in three sets in a stirring comeback. He then overcame old foe Wawrinka in the final.
Sadly, Murray is still battling with the latest pelvic issue to result from the metal hip joint he had implanted at the start of last year. As for Edmund, he finds himself in a terrible trough of form. Attempting to qualify for the Vienna event on Saturday, he lost to world No.128 Jason Jung. It was his fifth straight defeat.