Dan Evans had the purists purring on Arthur Ashe Stadium as he exchanged highlight-reel winners with world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
It was not enough to pull off an upset, but Evans was at least rewarded by the crowd’s appreciation – and by the Sky Sports commentary team’s verdict that this was the match of the tournament to date.
Alcaraz’s 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory featured many more smiles than you would normally expect from a top-level tennis contest. At times, it felt like exhibition stuff, what with all the dinks, drops, lobs and tweeners on show. That is just the way these two play.
If more of their fellow pros possessed such a complete skill-set – as well as the courage to try out so many different options – then the US Open’s ticket prices would be even more eye-watering than they already are.
Evans had come into this match on the back of career-best results, notably his capture of the ATP 500 event in Washington four weeks ago. But Alcaraz’s extra class was visible from the very first point. Evans sent down a respectable second serve, which Alcaraz biffed back at him with racket-melting power.
Alcaraz had soon wrapped up the opening game with a delightful drop shot, thus showing that – in golfing terms – he has mastered both the long game and the short. A bewildered Evans turned to his back-room team and made a “What am I supposed to do here?” gesture with his hands. He had soon slipped to a 4-1 deficit in just 21 minutes, less than half the time that his close friend Andy Murray had spent contesting the same number of games with Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.
When Evans pulled off a spectacular full-stretch volley winner to open the sixth game, one fan harrumphed: “That’s the first good shot he’s hit all match.” But the crowd soon warmed to Evans’s whole-hearted effort, which found him applying more and more pressure to the Alcaraz serve as the match went on.
The spirit of the contest was encapsulated by one astonishing rally in the middle of the second set. Alcaraz kept sending up towering lobs, and Evans kept replying with smashes, but in the end had to revert to a delicate backhand pass. Both men grinned at that one, which is another reason why Alcaraz is becoming such a crowd favourite. Almost uniquely among 21st Century champions, he shows evident enjoyment of the game while he is competing, and has a rare playfulness about him on the court.
In an era of relentless baseline grinding, here was a treat for Arthur Ashe ticket-holders. Tennis is a better sport when players move on both the x and y axes, rather than simply shuttling left and right all day long. Between them, Evans and Alcaraz came to the net 117 times in a match that lasted 238 points. The second set ended with another thrilling rally that featured an Alcaraz lob, an Evans “tweener” retrieval and then an Alcaraz drop-volley to seal the game.
Did Alcaraz ease up to drop the third set? Not exactly. This was arguably the best set of tennis that Evans has ever produced. He landed three-quarters of his first serves, and struck just a single unforced error – a backhand volley into the net-tape on set point, with the whole court at his mercy. Evans turned to his locum coach Colin Beecher at that moment, and put his hand on his head in a gesture that transmitted the message: “What have I done?”
Norrie crashes out to little-known Italian
To his credit, he regrouped moments later and drew an error from Alcaraz’s forehand return of serve – perhaps the only weak point in the world No1’s game – to claim his first set against this opponent in three meetings. It did not mean much in the end. Alcaraz lifted his own level to rack up an extraordinary 22 clean winners in the fourth set, many of them from apparently impossible positions. But Evans can still consider this a worthwhile outing because it demonstrated how high his standard of shot-making can go.
“He always wanted to come to the net,” said Alcaraz in his on-court interview. “Good slices, great touch. We play great points that made us smiling. Daniel as well. It’s great to see that on a tennis court. We play to make people happy as well, to make funny [fun] the match.”
Evans’s run to the third round matched his progress here last year, so his ranking – currently No28 in the world – is unlikely to change much. But British No1 Cameron Norrie fell in straight sets to the little-known Matteo Arnaldi, an Italian 22-year-old who had only ever won a single grand slam match when he pitched up here a week ago.
Norrie will not be happy with this one-sided loss in a match he had been the favourite to win, nor with his tally of 29 unforced errors, including 14 on his normally rock-solid backhand side.
Alcaraz beats Evans in four sets, as it happened
09:09 PM BST
What a battle!
09:03 PM BST
Draper silences New York crowd to reach fourth round but Norrie beaten
Elsewhere, there will be one British man in the second week of the tournament after Jack Draper beat American Michael Mmoh.
The British number four held his nerve to complete a gritty 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
He said: “It was a tough match, Michael is an incredible player who has had a great year and I knew would be a challenge. I was proud of the way I came through it.
“Last year was really difficult, I injured myself and didn’t want that to happen today. To come it through after a tough year for me, I’m very happy.”
There was disappointment for British No 1 Cameron Norrie after he lost in straight-sets to Matteo Arnaldi.
An out-of-sorts Norrie, the 16th seed, was beaten 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 by the Italian world number 61.
08:53 PM BST
More reaction from Alcaraz
Of course I watched the draw and I see the opponents I can play against but I am focused day by day. To defend the title here is a goal for me, I look at that.
Obviously, nobody has defended the title since Roger Federer so I would love to be part of the tournament history with Roger. This is my main goal.
08:42 PM BST
He is a tricky opponent.
It was a pretty good match, when we played the people love that. We made great points, great shots. A lot of different situations than other matches. I’m really happy to get through and play the fourth round at the US Open.
08:35 PM BST
Watch: The winning moment for Alcaraz
08:30 PM BST
An incredible match
Dan Evans easily played the best match of his season, but comes up short against the supreme Carlos Alcaraz.
Against anyone else, Evans surely would have won. #USOpen
— Molly McElwee (@molly_mcelwee) September 2, 2023
08:26 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 Evans*
Alcaraz starts the game with a second serve ace wide. Then an ace down the T, 30-0.
Evans attacks the net and Alcaraz lobs him effortlessly, 40-0. Three match points.
Alcaraz forehand winner GAME SET MATCH ALCARAZ.
What a match. Wow.
08:24 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 5-3 Evans
Serving to stay in the match, Evans begins with a volley winner. But Alcaraz hits back with another forehand winner, 15-15.
122mph ace from Evans. Alcaraz shows lightning-quick reactions to hit a volley winner after Evans aims a drive backhand at his body.
Gutsy second serve from Evans catches out Alcaraz. Alcaraz backhand return winner down the line, deuce.
Another much needed ace from Evans and Alcaraz hits forehand return long.
Evans wins another game and forces Alcaraz to hold serve to win the match. One last stand from Evans?
08:18 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 5-2 Evans*
Evans has to find a way to hit back here and recover after being broken. After Alcaraz races to 40-15, Evans pegs him back to deuce. He’s still believing despite the genius coming from the other side of the net.
But a 25th forehand winner from Alcaraz allows him to finally hold.
08:08 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-2 Evans
Evans double fault, 15-30. He responds with an excellent 98mph second serve down the T, 30-30.
Alcaraz frames a return out of court, 40-30. All court tennis from Alcaraz as he dances around the court and finishes with a drop volley, deuce.
First break point for set for Alcaraz after Evans nets a backhand.
ALCARAZ BREAKS! Devasting forehand winner by the best player in the world. That ball barely caught the line. He was at full stretch. Evans cannot believe what has just happened. He throws his racket into the net.
07:58 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 3-2 Evans*
Another brilliant cat-and-mouse rally between the two players. Patience, skill and then the forehand winner from Alcaraz into the open court, 30-0.
Alcaraz finds the baseline again with another crunching forehand winner. That right arm is a cannon.
Alcaraz holds and moves ahead again.
07:55 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 2-2 Evans
Problems for Evans here as he nets a forehand, 0-30. But he gets himself level after Alcaraz fails to get two returns into play. Alcaraz slides into an Evans volley but nets a backhand.
Evans wrong foots Alcaraz with a forehand and the Spaniard nets a defensive backhand. Terrific recovery.
07:49 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 2-1 Evans*
Service hold to 15 for Alcaraz. He’s all business at the moment. Not happy to still be out there playing.
07:46 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 1-1 Evans
Beauty of a first serve by Evans down the T for an ace, 30-15. Good second serve by Evans and Alcaraz’s return is wide.
Evans forehand winner, a big fist pump and he holds.
How long can he keep up this level?
07:43 PM BST
Fourth Set: Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 Evans* (*denotes next server)
Alcaraz begins the fourth set with a love service game. Some of the forehands he has hit have been outrageous today.
07:39 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 4-6 Evans
Statement of intent from Alcaraz as he rifles a forehand down the line which Evans can’t get back into play. The tension is palpable at the moment.
Serve and volley winner from Evans, 30-15. So good from him. Alcaraz forehand down the line is long. Two set points for Evans.
Alcaraz saves the first with another forehand winner down the line. Huge point coming up…
Alcaraz slips over after hitting a backhand pass but Evans nets the volley. Evans is smiling but on the inside he must be livid with himself. Deuce.
Evans gets another shot at winning the set after Alcaraz’s forehand return goes well wide. Unreal hitting from Alcaraz in a thrilling exchange and he finishes with a forehand volley winner. Back to deuce.
Huge roar from Evans after Alcaraz nets a forehand. Fourth set point…
Overhead smash winner from Alcaraz. Evans can’t find his first serve on the set points and it’s hurting him. Deuce again.
Alcaraz backhand is just out. Fifth set point… Evans finally finds a first serve and Alcaraz hits a forehand return wide.
Game well and truly on.
07:27 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 4-5 Evans*
Alcaraz responds after a double fault with an ace, 30-15. An expertly hit kick serve into Evans’ backhand makes it 40-15.
And Alcaraz holds with a backhand down the line. After the changeover, Evans will serve for the set. Can he do it?
07:25 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 3-5 Evans
Is this really the start of an Evans comeback?
He starts the game by getting passed at the net by Alcaraz. Then Alcaraz seizes on a sliced backhand by Evans by finishing with backhand volley winner, 0-30.
Too good by Alcaraz as he opens up the court with a deep backhand and finishes at the net with forehand winner two break points.
Evans saves the first when Alcaraz pushes an angled forehand wide. And the second when Alcaraz nets a forehand.
And Evans completes an amazing recovery when Alcaraz sends a forehand long. Alcaraz will now serve to stay in the set.
07:18 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 3-4 Evans*
A glare from Evans in the direction of Alcaraz after the Spaniard finds the side line with an angled volley winner. He can’t believe Alcaraz made it.
But Evans earns himself two break points after back-to-back returns from him draws an error by Alcaraz.
Another incredible point between the two players. The crowd are on their feet. Evans doesn’t incredibly to keep himself in the rally but Alcaraz covers the court too well and finishes with a forehand volley winner. Evans slams his racket in anger.
But he’s now celebrating after carving a lovely sliced backhand down the line past an onrushing Alcaraz to break.
An amazing sequence of points.
07:13 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 3-3 Evans
Evans had dropped just one point on serve in this set until Alcaraz strikes his fifth return winner to make it 40-15.
Alcaraz can’t get his forehand return into play and Evans holds again.
07:08 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 3-2 Evans*
A streak of 16 points in a row on serve for Alcaraz moves him to 30-0. But Evans keeps the game interesting by making it 30-30 after Alcaraz sends a forehand long.
However, an Alcaraz forehand winner gives him the game.
07:06 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 2-2 Evans
A bit of a lull in the match after an enthralling second set. Alcaraz seems keen to make this physical and takes Evans’ legs away.
But Evans is digging deep and holds to love after a forehand error from Alcaraz.
07:02 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 2-1 Evans*
Alcaraz is toying with Evans at the moment. Dragging him all over the court, to the net and back.
The Spaniard holds to 15 comfortably.
07:00 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3, 1-1 Evans
Evans gets to 40-0 but Alcaraz keeps himself in the game with a forehand return winner.
The Brit does get the service hold when Alcaraz’s running backhand is just long.
06:57 PM BST
Third Set: Alcaraz 6-2, 6-3, 1-0 Evans* (*denotes next server)
Evans struggling to make any headway in the Alcaraz service games at this stage of the match.
A lot more slices from Evans which suggests he’s finding it hard to live with the firepower coming at him from the other side of the net.
06:52 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 6-3 Evans
A weary look on Evans’ face now. He’s given everything but is still staring at being two sets down.
He tries a serve and volley but nets a difficult backhand volley, 15-30. Huge backhand pass by Alcaraz and Evans sends a volley long. Set point.
Alcaraz tries a spectacular half volley but nets. Deuce. You almost expect him to make that and when he doesn’t you’re shocked.
Wow. Jaw dropping forehand winner from Alcaraz. He jumped into it and hammered the ball past Evans. Easily 100mph.
But to his credit, Evans saves the set point again. Evans slices a backhand into the net, third set point.
Evans volley at the net, Alcaraz lobs him, Evans sprints back and hits a tweener high into the air and Alcaraz finishes the set with an easy overhead winner.
06:43 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 5-3 Evans*
This has been a really enjoyable match so far. A much harder test for Alcaraz than it looked early on.
But Alcaraz holds serve to love here to maintain his lead. He’s won 20/23 points at the net. So good in all areas of the court.
06:39 PM BST
Watch one of the points of the tournament
06:39 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 4-3 Evans
ONE OF THE POINTS OF THE TOURNAMENT. Unbelievable defence by Alcaraz to stay in the rally. He then lifts a lob over Evans, who gets the ball back to Alcaraz’s feet and the Spaniard nets. The crowd are on their feet and in disbelief.
And after all that Evans holds on to end the sequence of games against him.
06:34 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 4-2 Evans*
Easy service hold to 15 for Alcaraz. Four games in a row now and Evans needs a response quickly.
06:31 PM BST
Latest score: Draper 6-4, 6-2, 3-6 Mmoh
Game on on Grandstand as the American hits back to win the third set.
06:30 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 3-2 Evans
Double fault by Evans sees him slip to 0-30. But he finds a way back to 30-30 with a beautifully executed volley after sneaking into the net.
Evans forehand long, 30-40. Alcaraz return into the net, deuce. Another break chance for Alcaraz after Evans nets a forehand.
Evans shakes his head as he walks away. The pressure is building…
Evans forehand long and Alcaraz breaks once more.
06:24 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 2-2 Evans*
Chance for Evans with a stretch volley but he can’t make it. In fairness, it was a very good backhand down the line from Alcaraz, 30-30.
Alcaraz forehand wide and Evans earns himself another break point. He’s really going toe-to-toe with the world No 1.
Wowzers. Alcaraz finds the baseline with a blistering forehand down the line. Evans can’t believe it. Such easy power from Alcaraz.
Ball abuse warning for Evans after smashing the ball into the crowd when he nets a volley. Alcaraz gets back on serve when Evans nets a drop shot.
06:16 PM BST
Alcaraz* 6-2, 1-2 Evans
Will be interesting to see how Alcaraz reacts here.
Backhand into the net from Alcaraz, 30-30 as we pass the one hour mark. Double fault by Evans. Went for too much on his second serve. Break back point for Alcaraz.
Another double fault and Alcaraz strikes back immediately.
06:13 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2, 0-2 Evans*
Evans sprints forward to pick up an Alcaraz drop shot, the Spaniard lifts up a lob but Evans finishes expertly with a high backhand smash, 0-30.
Alcaraz gets back on track and makes the game 30-30. Sliced backhand from Evans and Alcaraz pushes a backhand long, break point.
Alcaraz whips a forehand deep into Evans’ backhand and attacks the net but the Briton moves across to his left and blasts a backhand down the line which Alcaraz can’t get back into play.
Evans breaks and we have a match on our hands now.
06:08 PM BST
Second Set: Alcaraz* 6-2, 0-1 Evans (*denotes next server)
Ideal start to a must win set by Evans as he holds to love. He’s definitely being more aggressive and it’s giving Alcaraz something to think about.
How long can Evans keep up this level?
06:02 PM BST
Alcaraz 6-2 Evans*
Alcaraz continues to target Evans’ backhand and push him further behind the baseline. But Evans gets to 30-30 here which is the best he’s managed in this set.
And Evans earns a break point after going on the attack with his forehand and drawing the error. Alcaraz second serve ace down the T. Evans never saw it coming.
Evans attacks the net off Alcaraz’s second serve and the Spaniard nets his backhand pass long means after break point. Alcaraz’s first serve bails him out of trouble this time as Evans fails to get the ball back in play.
Third break point chance for Evans after a deep forehand catches out Alcaraz. He’s definitely going for more on his forehand in the last 10 minutes.
Alcaraz gets his forehand high up to Evans’ backhand and he slices into the net. The frustration is all over his face.
Alcaraz forehand winner, set point. Wow. Alcaraz double fault. Scrappy game from the defending champ.
Another set point comes for Alcaraz and he can’t take it. Evans comes forward again, stays strong on the net and Alcaraz’s lob drops wide.
Third set point for Alcaraz and he finally gets it when Evans nets a forehand.
05:51 PM BST
Latest score: Draper 6-4, 6-2 Mmoh
Ace by Draper to wrap up the second set and edge him closer to the fourth round.
05:50 PM BST
Alcaraz* 5-2 Evans
Another soft second serve from Evans is punished by Alcaraz to bring up two set points.
A ‘come on’ from Evans after he saves the first set point. And he saves the second after a very good first serve down the T which Alcaraz fails to get back into play.
Evans is being forced out of his comfort zone and raise his level just to keep up with Alcaraz. He’s grinding away and he finds a couple of first serve to keep himself in the set.
05:41 PM BST
Alcaraz 5-1 Evans*
Evans has a moan at the umpire after someone gets into his player box. He’s distracted by this when he should be focused on what’s in front of him.
Another audacious half volley pick up by Alcaraz for a winner. The racket head control and soft hands were beautiful to watch.
Alcaraz moves a game away from the set with a forehand winner.
05:36 PM BST
Alcaraz* 4-1 Evans
Evans will want to get at least one game in this set to build momentum and he makes a decent start to this game after a brilliant stretch volley winner.
A missed Alcaraz return makes it 40-15 and Evans holds after 21 minutes when Alcaraz’s forehand flies long.
05:33 PM BST
Alcaraz 4-0 Evans*
Love hold for Alcaraz in around 70 seconds. Looking ominous for Evans here.
05:30 PM BST
Alcaraz* 3-0 Evans
That’s why he’s No 1. A gorgeous deft drop volley by Alcaraz beats Evans.
Alcaraz is doing a great job of rushing Evans on the return and he earns himself three break points. Evans saves the first break point. Then the second with a brave 110mph second serve. But not the third. Evans serve and volleys, Alcaraz sprints to the right and whips a forehand winner down the line.
Alcaraz looks too strong and quick for Evans.
05:26 PM BST
Alcaraz 2-0 Evans*
82 per cent of Evans’ backhands in the tournament have been sliced. I can’t see that having a big impact on Alcaraz but it will be something he hasn’t come up against often.
A sliced backhand from three metres behind the baseline by Evans goes tamely into the net and Alcaraz holds to 30.
05:22 PM BST
First Set: Carlos Alcaraz* 1-0 Dan Evans (*denotes next server)
Early mind games? Alcaraz won the coin toss and opted to receive first from Evans.
Evans is serving from the shaded side of the court. But he makes a confident start, finding his first serve and moving to 30-15. Low return from Alcaraz, Evans gets the half volley back in play but the ball sits up nicely for Alcaraz to finish the point with a forehand winner.
Deep Alcaraz return off a 96mph second serve and Evans can’t get the ball back in play. Break point.
Timely first serve by Evans to save break point. Alcaraz rushes Evans into a forehand error, second break point.
Missed return by Alcaraz and Evans saves break point again. Evans is keeping Alcaraz guessing with the direction of serve.
But he double faults to give Alcaraz a third shot at a break. Alcaraz finally converts after an entertaining rally ends with an angled winner from the Spaniard.
05:11 PM BST
Here we go!
It’s a hot day in New York as the two players walk out onto Arthur Ashe stadium for their match.
24 degrees and 47 per cent humidity. The shade on the court will be an issue again for both players.
05:01 PM BST
Latest score: Draper 6-4 Mmoh
First set goes to the Briton. Mmoh managed to save two set points but Draper gets it done with a forehand winner down the line.
Coming up next Alcaraz vs Evans!
04:51 PM BST
Alcaraz on playing Evans
He’s a really tough player. Good serve-and-volley, good net game.
It’s going to be really tough. I will play my best. I will have to return very, very well if I want to win that match.
04:44 PM BST
Latest score: Draper 4-3 Mmoh
First break of the match goes the way of the Briton. Plenty of long baseline rallies between the two players but it is a volley into the net by Mmoh that allows Draper to get ahead.
04:29 PM BST
Big time hitting between Draper and Mmoh
04:20 PM BST
About last night…
04:12 PM BST
US Open betting offers and free bets
Take a look at these free bets and betting offers to use throughout the tournament.
04:03 PM BST
Saturday’s order of play
Arthur Ashe Stadium
5pm UK time (12pm local)
Not before 7pm UK time
Louis Armstrong Stadium
4pm UK time (11am local)
Clara Burel (France) v 2-Aryna Sabalenka
14-Liudmilla Samsonova v 17-Madison Keys (USA)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) v 6-Jannik Sinner (ITA)
Not before 7pm UK time
Read the rest of Saturday’s schedule here.
03:51 PM BST
US Open day four
Hello and welcome to our US Open coverage on day six as four Brits look to reach the second week at Flushing Meadows.
Up first is Jack Draper, who beat 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 on Thursday, against Michael Mmoh.
Ahead of the tournament, Draper was been managing an arm issue but is confident he can play through the problem.
He said: “There was a strong chance I couldn’t play this week. But we got the scans done and sent it back home and they said it’s not the same injury, so it’s not that serious.
“I’m kind of looking after it each day. It was a bit sore after my last match but when the adrenaline kicks in and obviously playing the US Open, I just put it out of my mind and go out and try my best to play the tennis I want to.”
Then on Arthur Ashe, Dan Evans faces the daunting task of world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
Evans said: “It’s a little annoying to have him in the top eight of the draw but it is what it is. It will be a good match. I am really looking forward to it and will play aggressively.
“It’s a very difficult draw. He will obviously be the overwhelming favourite but it’s a good opportunity to play a very good tennis player on a big stage. That is why you play tennis.”
Alcaraz has won both of their previous two meetings in straight sets, but Evans boasts a better record on the golf course after the pair played a few holes at Wimbledon.
“Of course, his golf is much better than mine, that’s for sure,” said Alcaraz. “We played a little bit before Wimbledon. We had such a great time at the course.”
The winner of that match could face British number one Cameron Norrie, who is taking on Italian world number 61 Matteo Arnaldi.
And Katie Boulter faces Peyton Stearns, a young American who she lost to in three tie-breaks in a marathon match in Austin, Texas, in February.
Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.