Watson prevails in windy Melbourne but Evans falls to ‘awkward’ Nishioka

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Heather Watson battled her way into the second round of the Australian Open but Dan Evans’ campaign came to an end with a straight-sets defeat by Yoshihito Nishioka.

The British number one had the carrot of a potential third-round clash with Novak Djokovic but was second best throughout against his consistent Japanese opponent and lost 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Evans admitted afterwards that he had hoped not to face Nishioka, saying: “I knew it would be difficult. In all honesty, I didn’t want him to win against (Laslo) Djere.

Evans admitted he anticipated a difficult match against Yoshihito Nishioka
Evans admitted he anticipated a difficult match against Yoshihito Nishioka (Andy Wong/AP)

“Some days you look forward to matches and I didn’t look forward to it. I just find him overly awkward. He made it literally as awkward as possible.”

Evans insisted he had given the best he had despite his dislike of facing Nishioka, adding: “I still walk on the court thinking I can win the match.

“He just makes it difficult for me, I don’t like playing him. You know how you feel in yourself as well, it’s going to be a tough day, but put it on the court and I did that and it wasn’t good enough.”

Despite the disappointing end to his first grand slam tournament as a seed, Evans can reflect on an excellent start to the year, with a new career-high ranking of 32 thanks to his tremendous performances for Great Britain at the ATP Cup.

He said: “Obviously to start the year with such drama with my matches and then the doubles at ATP Cup, I can only look back and be happy.

“It was great to be there, part of that tournament, and then the grand slams are always good. I love coming to Melbourne. I’ve enjoyed it. It was a difficult day.

“But I’ve got to look back at a lot of points and good moves up the rankings.”

Evans remained upbeat about his season so far despite his second-round defeat
Evans remained upbeat about his season so far despite his second-round defeat (Andy Wong/AP)

Windy conditions in Melbourne made life tricky but it was tall Czech Pliskova, the identical twin sister of world number two Karolina, who ended up struggling the most.

That had a lot to do with Watson, who was unlucky to lose the first set but fought back brilliantly, sealing the second set with an ace before taking the match 4-6 6-3 6-1.

Watson said: “Being the first-round match and it being postponed, I felt a bit nervous on court in the first set and was a bit tense.

“But after that I managed to loosen up and relax and start enjoying it and I thought my game improved more and more as the match went on.

“I don’t mind the wind at all. I like it and the way I play – slice, drop shots, and change of pace balls – I think it works well in the wind, and I’m patient.”

Watson arrived in Melbourne in good form after reaching the semi-finals of the Hobart International and she should feel positive for her clash with 16th seed Elise Mertens on Thursday after beating her in Tasmania.

The British number two said: “She’s a great player and tough competitor and very solid so it will be a tough match.

“I think coming in it will give me confidence for sure to know that I can beat her, especially if it gets close in those tight moments.”

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