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

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.

“When it was windy like that I knew exactly how he would play and I couldn’t break him. I didn’t play great, but all credit to him, he played pretty good.

“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.”

There was much better news for Watson, whose match against Kristyna Pliskova was a victim of the over-loaded schedule on Tuesday and held back.

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.”

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS