Dan Evans exits Wimbledon with frustration at ‘powers that be in fancy jackets’

As Dan Evans’s first-round match with Alejandro Tabilo resumed on Wednesday, it looked at times as though the Briton was reaching into a bag of tricks, rummaging around desperately for something of use – eyes strained at the sky, tongue lolloped across his face – and pulling out a tool, only to find that his opponent was already holding the same one. Except each time, Tabilo’s was sharper, shinier, more effective.

When their Wimbledon tie resumed on Court 12, the score was 3-3 in the second set, with the Chilean having taken the first on Tuesday. Their match had been suspended due to dimming light and dampening grass, with Evans unwilling to risk injury, having already hurt himself with a fall at Queens.

That fall had left his right knee bandaged here, and perhaps the one upside from this defeat is that – barring a deep doubles run at the All England Club – the 34-year-old will now have more time to recover before the Olympics. Because, ultimately, the end of Evans’s Wimbledon campaign came three weeks before the start of his endeavours in Paris, as Tabilo completed a straight-sets victory under grey skies in SW19.

There was a slickness to Evans’s and Tabilo’s ball-striking from the baseline on Wednesday, though Tabilo’s greater power and shot pace were evident from the off. Soon enough, Evans was forced to save a set point at 4-5, doing so with a forehand into the open court after a serve that clipped the line – and survived a challenge from Tabilo, 27.

As he then held serve for 5-5, there was a “Yes, Evans!” from, well, Evans himself, before spots of rain and a growing breeze fell upon Court 12.

Evans tried to neutralise Tabilo’s power advantage with increased topspin, as the games wore their way to deuce time and again. One of those deuces brought with it a double-fault from Evans, who replicated the mistake immediately to give up his serve and the set.

As the third frame began, Tabilo’s clinical net play proved another differentiator between the pair, with one half-volleyed winner exhibiting the Chilean’s reaction speed after Evans clipped the tape with an attempted pass. The frustrated Briton appeared to offer a subtle glare at one fan who timed their “Come on, Dan!” a little too late, as he prepared to serve, while Tabilo was all smiles across the net – happy to greet the odd Evans ace or winner with a thumbs-up.

Dan Evans was beaten by Alejandro Tabilo in the first round of Wimbledon (Getty Images)
Dan Evans was beaten by Alejandro Tabilo in the first round of Wimbledon (Getty Images)

A hold early in the third set was accompanied by a victory snarl from Evans, but moments later he was evaluating one of his missed groundstrokes with a “You had the whole court that side.”

Tabilo at one point apologised for framing a shot into the front row, narrowly missing his own coaches and – thankfully by a greater margin – a writer from The Independent. The 27-year-old then found himself within a game of victory as Evans misfired on two forehands, sending one into the net and one beyond the baseline. Those errors brought a break of serve for Tabilo, and a 5-3 lead.

The crowd offered Evans its support on match point, but Tabilo scraped the chalk off the grass with a serve, and the home favourite could offer no retort. There went the match: 6-2 7-5 6-3.

Afterwards, Evans praised Tabilo but stressed his annoyance at Tuesday’s events, saying he had not deemed the surface “playable” for “the vast majority of time we were on court”. But crucially: “The powers that be in fancy jackets didn’t agree.”

And so the British No 3 and world No 59 bowed out of the Wimbledon singles draw at the first hurdle. Now his attention turns to a doubles endeavour with 18-year-old Henry Searle, and then: Paris, and dreams of Olympic glory.