Kecmanovic Saves 6 MPs To Stun Evans In Tokyo
Miomir Kecmanovic saved six match points in a single game — including one with a tweener — to stay alive against Daniel Evans, then used his new life to capture a stirring victory on Thursday in Tokyo.
In a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) win, the Serbian trailed 0/40 with Evans serving at 5-4 in the third set. With his back firmly against the wall, he produced a series of stunning winners to break in a four-deuce game, the longest of the match. Kecmanovic then saw a match point of his own go begging on return at 6-5, before closing out the tie-break by winning its final four points.
"That was the first time that I was able to do that," Kecmanovic said of his match-point saves. "I was completely tuned out of the match and I just went for it in that moment."
The Serbian revealed that the tweener he hit, down match point at Ad-in, was the first time he was able to pull of the circus shot. After tracking down a lob and roping the tweener to force Evans into a difficult volley, Kecmanovic forced a volley error as he powered a backhand at the eighth seed.
"It was amazing, It's the first time I ever made that shot in a match," he said. "I'm beyond happy that I was able to do it."
After winning the opening set with a single break, Kecmanovic broke first in both the second and third sets before Evans turned the tables to lead. From 1-4 in the third, Evans won four straight games to bring up an opportunity to serve for the match, ultimately falling one point short in agonising fashion.
"I had a lot of ups and downs, especially in the third set, being up 4-1," Kecmanovic reflected. "Somehow I managed to stay in, and thankfully I'm still here."
Through to his eighth quarter-final of 2022, the Serbian will next face fourth seed Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-1, 7-6(7) in the day's opening match in the Ariake Colosseum.
Tiafoe won his 13th consecutive tie-break to clinch victory against the Spaniard and advance to the quarter-finals for the first time in Tokyo. In a 6-1, 7-6(7) win, Tiafoe closed out a high-level second set on his fifth match point. He is through to his sixth ATP Tour quarter-final of the season.
"I think handling those big moments, tie-breaks and stuff like that, [the key is] focussing on what you can focus on and just playing to win, playing aggressive," Tiafoe said, also acknowledging the role of luck in his streak. "I have a lot of shots in the book, so I'm trying to make the match on my terms and have that belief."
The fourth-seeded American has not lost a tie-break since Cincinnati, winning eight in his run to the US Open semi-finals and another two at the Laver Cup, including a trophy-clinching Match Tie-break for Team World.
Against Zapata Miralles, Tiafoe raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set after saving two break points in his first service game. But the Spaniard raised his level in set two, creating two chances for what could have been a double-break lead at 4-1. Instead, the American got back on serve to set up an eventful close to the pair's first ATP Head2Head meeting.
Tiafoe could not convert on two match points with Zapata Miralles serving at 4-5, then saved a break point on his own serve at 5-5.
A thrilling tie-break included a sumptuous drop volley from Tiafoe and a stunning on-the-run pass from Zapata Miralles as the competitors traded heavy blows in the Ariake Colosseum. With big serves at key moments, Tiafoe never gave his opponent a set point as he closed out the victory.
The American finished the match with 12 aces and a 78 per cent (28/36) win rate on first serve. He saved five of six break points in the one-hour, 32-minute contest. Tiafoe is now two wins away from matching the run of his coach, South Africa's Wayne Ferreira, to the 1999 Tokyo final.
"Wayne's been pushing me to just keep believing in myself and believing in my game," said Tiafoe, who was not aware of his coach's success in Japan. "When I'm at my best, I can play with anyone. He's been really pushing that message for me."
Did You Know?
The last American to win the Tokyo men's singles title was three-time champion Pete Sampras in 1996