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Dan Evans stuns Novak Djokovic with straight-sets victory in Monte-Carlo Masters - GETTY IMAGES

Dan Evans stuns Novak Djokovic with straight-sets victory in Monte-Carlo Masters – GETTY IMAGES

British No 1 Dan Evans cited a disrespectful late arrival from Novak Djokovic as the spur that prompted the best – and most unlikely – victory of his career today in Monte Carlo.

This was a real turn-up. Beating Djokovic had appeared to be an impossible dream for Evans. He has never warmed to clay, nor had he previously managed a victory against anyone ranked higher than No 7 in the world.

But Djokovic – who has stood atop the rankings for 14 months – came out strangely flat on a blustery, cold and drizzly day in the Riviera. And Evans was contrastingly brilliant, especially in the large number of stylish drop-shots that he feathered just over the net.

The result was a pot pourri of remarkable statistics. This was Djokovic’s first defeat of 2021, after 10 straight victories. It was Evans’ first visit to the quarter-final of a Masters 1000 event (where he will play 11th seed David Goffin on Friday). Most notably, it was the first time that a British man had beaten a world No 1 on clay. A perceived snub in the build-up had helped Evans find his focus. “He kept me waiting at the start of the match in the changing rooms a little bit,” Evans told Amazon Prime after his 6-4, 7-5 win. “It was a little annoying, so I was ready to go from that – it got me a little extra fired up.

“That’s why we roll the balls out,” Evans added. “It’s one against one and you’ve gotta see who wins and that’s what I was telling myself. He gave me some cheap ones today which he never normally does, so I was a little lucky there but I am just really happy with coming through.”

The same interview finished with a moment of banter as Amazon’s studio pundit Tim Henman asked Evans – tongue firmly in cheek – whether clay was now his favourite surface. “Is golf your favourite sport?” replied Evans, without addressing the question.

Before this tournament, Evans had scored only two clay-court wins at ATP Tour level in his entire career. They were all the way back in Barcelona in 2017, in the same week when he had given the positive cocaine test which would result in a year-long ban.

Since then, he had played 10, lost 10 at this level of clay-court tennis. But the past few days in Monte Carlo have been a revelation, starting with a hard-earned three-set win against another Serb – Dusan Lajovic – and continuing on Wednesday through a comfortable ousting of an out-of-sorts Hubert Hurkacz (the recent Miami Open champion).

Djokovic didn’t waste any time after the match, walking straight to the press-conference room and bemoaning his own efforts.

“That’s been one of the worst performances I can remember in many years,” Djokovic said. “I don’t want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It’s one of those days.

“Yesterday I played pretty good match I thought,” said Djokovic, who had overcome the other recent Miami finalist Jannik Sinner in his opening match with little difficulty.

“Today was completely the opposite of what I felt yesterday. It was very, very windy, tough to play in these kind of conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.”