Evans wins Battle of the Brits as tennis ramps up

  • Matt Trollope

Dan Evans proved that tennis’s suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic has not halted his early-season momentum with victory at the Battle of the Brits tournament.

Evans brushed aside Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-2 in Sunday's final of the eight-player exhibition event, which was organised by Jamie Murray and held at London’s National Tennis Centre.

It was a chance for British ATP players to get some competitive match-play while the professional tennis tours remain suspended due to COVID-19.

It was not the only such event; in Charleston, Bethanie Mattek-Sands captained Team Peace to victory over Madison Keys' Team Kindness at the star-studded Credit One Bank Invitational women's tournament.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, continues to lead the field at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), an exhibition event featuring several top 10 men's players and staged at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in southern France.

Battle of the Brits

Evans was brilliant throughout the six-day event in Roehampton, coming from a set behind to beat former world No.1 Andy Murray in the semifinals.

He had earlier gone undefeated in the group stage, with wins over Jay Clarke, Cam Norrie and Ryan Peniston.

"It has been a long week and a great week," Evans said. "It was pretty much like a Tour event this week. I didn't think it would be this big but it turned out really well."

Dan Evans (R) was victorious over Kyle Edmund (L) in the Battle of the Brits final. (Getty Images)

The 30-year-old Evans had been thriving in early 2020 before the coronavirus forced the shutdown of the sport, winning three of his four singles matches at the ATP Cup before reaching quarterfinals in Adelaide and Rotterdam. 

His last event before the Battle of the Brits came at February’s ATP 500 event in Dubai, where he advanced to the semifinals to improve his season win-loss record to 11-5. 

He is currently ranked No.28, after beginning the year at No.42.

"It has been a long week and a great week ... I didn't think it would be this big but it turned out really well."
Dan Evans

It was also an encouraging return to the courts for Murray, who had not played competitively since last year’s Davis Cup finals in Madrid.

Murray had enjoyed a successful comeback to singles in the second half of 2019 following hip surgery, winning the ATP title in Antwerp for his first singles trophy in two-and-a-half years.

However, he developed a bony growth in the tissue around his metal hip implant, keeping him off the court for the first two months of 2020 while professional tennis was still being played.

After playing four matches in five days at the Battle of the Brits, Murray withdrew from his third-place play-off match against Norrie, citing a shin complaint.

Yet he still managed to notch wins over Liam Broady and James Ward and pushed 44th-ranked Edmund to three sets, results which saw him qualify for the semifinals.

Andy Murray competes against Dan Evans in the semifinals of the Battle of the Brits. (Getty Images)

"I know if my hip is good, my tennis will only improve and get better over the next few months. If I can get consistent practice," Murray said.

"The hip feels good. If I play like (I did against Edmund) and do a few things better, sharpen up a couple of things, I will play high-level tennis."

Credit One Bank Invitational

Teaming with Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Mattek-Sands gave her team an unassailable 26-16 lead in the competition in Charleston following victory over Victoria Azarenka and Amanda Anisimova.

Sunday's order of play began with Mattek-Sands going down to Shelby Rogers, a victory that kept Team Kindness in contention.

Yet Team Peace stretched its lead to 23-16 thanks to a doubles victory by Eugenie Bouchard and Jennifer Brady over Keys and Alison Riske, before Kenin and Mattek-Sands finished the job.

Brady was a significant presence at the event, going undefeated in four matches - including singles wins over major champions Azarenka and Sloane Stephens.

Like Britain's Evans, Brady was in scintillating form in early 2020 before the sport's suspension, winning 12 of her first 17 matches and cracking the top 50. 

The event followed a similar scoring format to the Laver Cup, with match victories increasing in point value each day as the competition unfolded.

Ultimate Tennis Showdown

Tsitsipas is in pole position at the UTS after the world No.6 beat Australia’s Alexei Popyrin three quarters to one on Sunday to claim his fifth victory from six outings at the exhibition event. 

Tsitsipas tops the table ahead of Matteo Berrettini and Richard Gasquet, both of whom have won four matches and lost two.

UTS matches, known as “showdowns”, will continue over the next two weekends in order to determine which players finish in the “final four”.

Joining Tsitsipas in the winner's circle on Sunday were fellow top-10 stars Dominic Thiem - who beat Berrettini - and David Goffin, while Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez also notched victories.