Dan Evans branded his French Open defeat by Thanasi Kokkinakis “shocking” and hit out at officials for foot-faulting him at a key point in the first-round contest.
Evans finally won his first match at Roland Garros last year but could not achieve the same result here, going down 6-4 6-4 6-4 to big-hitting Kokkinakis – the player beaten by Andy Murray in an early morning Australian Open epic this year.
The British number two appeared to have turned the match around in the second set when he led 4-1 but, at 30-0 in the seventh game, he was foot-faulted for the unusual offence of his back foot crossing the centre line on serve by the line judge at the far end of the court.
Not to be for Dan Evans at @rolandgarros
— LTA (@the_LTA) May 28, 2023
Evans promptly lost four points in a row, slamming his water bottle to the ground in annoyance and earning a code violation, and he did not win another game in the set as the match slipped away.
The 33-year-old was clearly taken aback by the call, which he later said had never happened to him before.
“Disruptive, wrong, a few other things you could say about it,” said Evans. “It’s the game. But, once again, the players are held responsible, but the umpires and line judges are not held responsible. I’ll be getting fined, obviously, for breaking the water bottle.
“I obviously knew it was a rule but I tend to know where my feet are. It just totally threw me where I was then serving from. It was difficult from then on. I lost all trust in where my feet were. It’s a very minor thing, but it became a pretty big thing in my head.
"𝗔 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹."
— Eurosport (@eurosport) May 28, 2023
“If they’re going to call that foot fault, it shouldn’t be from 35 metres away, from fence to fence through a net. That’s not the reason I lost, but I was right in the match at that point.”
Evans remains close to his highest ranking at 25 and has had some decent results this season, notably reaching the semi-finals on clay in Barcelona last month, but he has also lost his opening match at tournaments eight times and is currently on a four-match losing streak.
He will hope to turn things around on grass, where he has traditionally been strong, but he made no attempt to sugar-coat things.
“I’ve been very poor in the big tournaments this year,” he said. “Incredibly kind draw in Australia and I came through a few matches, but I’ve been poor in the Masters, one good tournament this year.
“I said the other day there’s some soul-searching. There will be plenty of that tonight.
“I’ve got to get on and try and get my game in a good spot. It’s shocking right now how I played today. The frustrating thing is I’m playing well in practice and then not putting it on the court.
“It’s a hard sport. That’s the bottom line. I’ve never missed a shot from inside the living room, and I’m guessing no one missed at home today. It’s just incredibly frustrating. I’ll keep going, trying, and get back practising.”
The defeat means Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper are the only British players left in the main singles draws, and Evans launched his latest broadside against the Lawn Tennis Association in his pre-tournament press conference on Friday, criticising the way young players are funded.
Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and LTA performance director Michael Bourne were both in the stands watching Evans, and he said: “The problem with it all is everybody takes it personally.
“It’s not anything personal. If you’re taking it personally, then maybe you’re guilty of what I’m saying. They were supporting me fine today.
“I voice my opinions because I want working-class kids to get the support they deserve. In any other sport, when people voice their opinions about a system, it goes forward, but, in tennis, because we’re so elitist in England, it doesn’t get put forward. I’m doing it for working-class people like I was.”