RAFAEL Nadal quickly erased the brief advantages Brit Daniel Evans had to win his opener 7-6(6), 6-4 on Wednesday at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal.
Evans led 5/2 in the first-set tiebreak, but Nadal won six of the final seven points to seize momentum at the ATP Masters 1000 event. In the second, Evans, after suffering an early break, had them back on serve at 3-3, but Nadal broke right back en route to his 35th win at the Canadian Masters 1000. Nadal also earned his 378th Masters 1000 victory, tying Roger Federer on the all-time leaderboard.
The Spaniard was contesting his first match since losing to Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals on 12 July. Nadal is going for his fifth Canadian Masters 1000 title, with his titles evenly split between Montreal (2005 and 2013) and Toronto (2008 and 2018).
He’s also going for a career-first this week: Nadal has never defended a hard-court title.
The World No. 2 will next face Moldovan Radu Albot or Brasil Open winner, Guido Pella of Argentina on Thursday. Defending 1000 ATP Rankings points as the 2018 tournament champion, Nadal must reach the final to prevent Federer from displacing him as World No. 2 on Monday when the standings are released.
The 29-year-old Evans, who had been looking for his first Top 5 win (0-5), is now 3-8 lifetime against players in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.
Nadal, playing in just his second tournament since winning a 12th Roland Garros title two months ago, showed signs of early rust, missing a number of forehands as he was broken in the opening game and as Evans held to love en route to a 3-1 lead before players sat down to wait out a brief rain delay.
Evans won his first nine service points and took the battle to Nadal, stepping into the court at every opportunity to crush forehands and to make 20 net approaches during the set. But gradually Nadal regained confidence in his dominant forehand, which he used to move Evans side to side and to break Evans in the first game back after the first rain delay.
The pattern continued from there, with Nadal gaining more and more belief and settling into the season’s sixth Masters 1000 event.
Marin Cilic, the 14th seed, beat Australian John Millman 6-3, 6-4. He will play the winner between second seed Dominic Thiem and Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Cilic reached his second quarter-final of the season last week at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (l. to Medvedev). The Croatian won the 2016 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati for his lone Masters 1000 title.