It's a pretty big headline from the Monte Carlo Masters: Dan Evans Defeats Novak Djokovic. I will get to why I added: “with the slice”.
I haven't had time to watch full matches from the Monte Carlo Masters, but I subscribe to TennisTV to get the highlights and possible replays. When I saw the highlights clip on YouTube: Dan Evans Defeats Novak Djokovic, I just had to stop what I was doing and watch it.
If you haven't watched Dan Evans play, it's highly recommended. This guy is talented (if Federer chose him as a practice partner before coming back to the tour, you know there is some respect there) and has a beautiful, all-court game where he uses the slice on his backhand at around 90%. The only time he comes over the ball on his backhand wing is when the opponent comes forward and he needs to pass him.
It sounds like a strategy that would never work on this level, but Evans has a nasty slice and uses it cleverly. There are very strong other players in the history of tennis that have predominantly used the slice on the backhand: Steffi Graf, Fernando Gonzalez, and Feliciano Lopez.
Watch the highlights from TennisTV
As you can see in the highlights reel, Evans patiently waits (with his backhand slice) for Djokovic to lose his cool and attack, and then he finds a way to stir up trouble. It's not like Evans doesn't have a solid one-handed backhand, it's just that he's more confident with the slice, and to be honest, his opponents have not really found a way to use this against him.
This is the biggest win of his career and should give him extra confidence for the rest of the season. What about Novak? Well, it's probably just a blip on the radar and he's soon back to winning ways again. We have seen, though, that the players that trouble Djokovic the most are the ones that keep hitting back in the middle with decent depth – not opening any angles or making too many unforced errors. This is what Dan managed to do today.
What racquet does Dan Evan use? Check out this post.
I am fan of Djokovic, but to be honest Dan was amasing. He forced Djokovic to make 45 unforced errors and mostly was by slice. Slow courts, excelent movement and good distribution of shots, really impresive!!
Novak’s lack of confidence in his net game was on full display here! He could have ended a lot of points by coming in on some of those short slice backhands but he always insists on staying back and waiting for a mistake from the opponent.
The few times Novak used his own slice on Evans forehand wing, Evans hit the net. Novak didn’t seem to notice this and kept slicing to Evans backhand side, which didn’t have any effect.
Novaks reliable backhand failed and went out. He never adjusted to the conditions and put more topspin on the balls.
Clay IS different and more spin is needed to compensate for wind and irregular bounce.
Just watched Ruud beat Carreno Busta. The camera angle was much better on that court and one could really see the shape of the balls and why Ruud is so effective on clay. Carreno Busta struggled visibly with Ruuds heavy, spinny forehand.
Until Monte 2021, Dan had only won a couple of clay court matches at tour level in his pro career. He had really tough first round luck of the draws from Aus Open until this week and almost beat Musetti after holding 4 match points against let’s face it, a hell of a talented player. A bad run? For some, sure.
And then this week beat Lajovic the finalist the last Monte Carlo open and then Hurcacz who beat Sinner in the final recently…..and now, the world number one, Djokovic.
And then went back on court to beat the 3rd seed top class doubles pair straight after to boot.
The little lad from Hall Green, has done very well and it’s been fantastic to see him rise again, now a credit to himself and the sport. A fierce competitor, a nice guy and full of ability.
The thing about Dan is, similar to Federer, he has all the shots, so even when he is hitting loads of slice backhands, at any moment he can follow with a power topspin backhand. On various occasion after luring Djok into the net he would hit a passing topspin BH, or a down the line with an inside-out BH.
He has the benefit of variation, or monotony. Monotonous slice if it is causing an issue, variation is awkward for some tour 2 handers used to a similar flight path and rhythm. If he is having a decent day depth wise and has legs and focus, he is a real pain to play.
The Goffin match win today was almost more admirable. Goffin is no slouch around the court, very solid and good on clay.
Wondering if Dan has the legs and calories to burn Vs Tsitsipas, but I hope so because he deserves to compete and I hope he wins.
Playing dubs as well….that’s a huge feat to get to semi’s in both, even if he loses both tomorrow.
It would be fantastic if he kept this form and run going.
As for Nadal, unsure but Monte is early in the cycle and, coming off injury and training blocks, players, perhaps including Nadal may have been doing what powerlifters do and bulking up legs, powering up and then stripping off and leaning down to peak at the optimum moment and Monte Carlo falls early in that cycle, when Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Olympics are the targets, and that’s a BIG ask to hold that level of appropriate fitness and movement for 3 months.
I don’t imagine Rafa is a stranger to theories used by professional powerlifters and physical trainers, and that is more likely how he bulks and leans down, because to am extent this is surface specific. Today his feet seemed just a little at odds with what his mind thought they were doing.
Where Rublev, was just, usual Rublev.
I’d love to know how Rafa varies his muscle/mass ratios, and why….but akin to a lot of Roger’s training perhaps we will never know. Not every player can do it so noticeably, some are tall and slender, and some are broad and built like a brick sh*thouse.
The dexterity and stability needed on Clay, may perhaps need stronger quads and core for balance and stability through the shot, plus adjustments and recovery, where as if you carry that mass and torque onto a highly abrasive surface then you could put unnecessary strain on joints and may benefit from being more ‘lighter’ footed.