Rafael Nadal came back from a 5-2 deficit in a first-set tiebreak to take a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory over British qualifier Daniel Evans on Wednesday at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Nadal, the top seed and defending champion, fought off two set points and won six of the final seven points in the tiebreak to take the first set. Nadal broke Evans’ serve at 3-3 in the second set and then cruised to victory.
“It was a tough first set,” Nadal said. “Then in the second, I was able to take advantage at the beginning, but then he broke me back. It was so important, that (next) game again to have the break.”
The 33-year-old Spaniard is attempting to win his 35th ATP Masters 1000 title. He has four Rogers Cup championships: 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2018.
Wednesday’s contest was Nadal’s first match since losing to Roger Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon last month. Nadal must reach the final in Montreal to retain his No. 2 ranking when the next world standings are released on Monday. If not, Federer will take over as No. 2.
It’s only the second tournament for Nadal since he won his 12th French Open title, and it took him some time on Wednesday to shake off the effects of his inactivity. He missed some early shots, allowing Evans to take a 3-1 lead before Nadal regrouped during a brief rain delay.
Evans was vying for his first win against a top-5 player — he’s now 0-5 — and is 3-8 in his career against Top 10 players.
On Thursday, Nadal will face Guido Pella of Argentina, a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2) winner over Moldovan Radu Albot.
Meanwhile, second-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria took down a crowd favorite, outlasting Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Shapovalov created more break points (five) than Thiem (two), but he converted just one opportunity while Thiem converted both of his chances. In each of the sets he won, Thiem broke Shapovalov immediately before serving for the set.
“Every win is special in these tournaments because it’s only against great opponents,” Thiem said. “Against Denis, it was special because he’s a local hero. All the crowd was supporting him, so it was tough.”
Thiem — coming off a victory at the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria, last week — will next face 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who defeated Australian lucky loser John Millman 6-3, 6-4.
The tournament’s fourth and fifth seeds both tumbled. Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz took down No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while Frenchman Richard Gasquet toppled No. 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 9 minutes.
No. 11 Borna Coric of Croatia (6-2, 6-1 to France’s Adrian Mannarino) and No. 12 John Isner of the United States (6-3, 6-4 to Chile’s Cristian Garin) both fell in straight sets. No. 17 Milos Raonic retired against fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime after the pair had split the first two sets.
Auger-Aliassime, a 19-year-old Montreal native, will next face sixth-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia, who survived Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
Other seeded players to advance to the Round of 16 were No. 8 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 16 Gael Monfils of France.
—Field Level Media