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Great Britain’s Daniel Evans stunned John Isner and the American’s home crowd on Saturday, defeating the top seed 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com final.
There will be a first-time ATP Tour champion on Sunday, as Evans will face home favourite Mackenzie McDonald or Moldovan Radu Albot, both of whom are trying to reach their first final. World No. 148 Evans is into just his second tour-level final, after finishing runner-up at the 2017 Sydney International (l. to Muller).
"I just play every match as it comes, every point, every game. It sounds very clich but... I'm just playing every match. It's not about beating John, it's not about beating [Andreas] Seppi. The ball is coming and I'm just trying to focus on myself," Evans said. "I'm moving well, I'm playing pretty good, so I think I'm difficult to play."
Isner appeared in good position with a 6-3, 2-2 lead, attempting to reach his first Delray Beach championship in his fourth semi-final at the event. Until that point, Isner had not been broken in 77 service games, with his most recent loss of serve coming in the fourth set of his opening-round defeat at the Australian Open against Reilly Opelka.
"I started to see his serve pretty well. I wouldn't say I was guessing, but I was sort of anticipating and I got it right," Evans said. "Other days I could be looking stupid going one way and he puts it the other way."
But Evans broke Isner three times in a row to completely change the momentum. The Brit used his one-handed backhand well once they got into rallies, keeping Isner's offence at bay, especially with his backhand slice. Isner made just 60 per cent of his first serves in the second set, allowing Evans to work his way into more rallies and put pressure on Isner to finish points, leading to errors from the baseline.
"I returned really well when I got my racquet on the ball, and that was my goal," Evans said. "Just to get the ball back and get the running shoes on."
Evans has now won six matches in the tournament after coming through qualifying. In the first round of the main draw, he trailed defending champion Frances Tiafoe 1-4 in the third set of their first-round match, and had also come within two points of defeat in the second set. This was his third victory against an opponent inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, also defeating Dominic Thiem (Sydney) and Marin Cilic (Australian Open) in January 2017.
"It's tennis. You get through those matches, you get another chance the next day, and I don't know about fate, but funny things do happen when you scrape through the first round," Evans said. "I'm playing good, so hopefully tomorrow I win."
Did You Know?
There have already been four first-time ATP Tour winners in 2019: Alex de Minaur (Sydney), Tennys Sandgren (Auckland), Juan Ignacio Londero (Cordoba) and Opelka (New York).