Kyle Edmund beats Dan Evans to face Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo Masters

Kyle Edmund won a career-first Tour match against Dan Evans, 7-5, 6-1 and earned the right to test his clay-court skills in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters against the greatest player in the history of the discipline, Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, a nine-times winner in Monte Carlo, is gathering his resources with conviction since his last Tour win a year ago and, coming off three 2017 finals – two of them against Roger Federer – he is a serious threat in the first of the European events leading up to the French Open.

No player in the open era has won the same tournament 10 times. The Spaniard also owns nine championships at each of Barcelona and Roland Garros, so, if Edmund were to take a set off him on Wednesday, he could regard it as a minor triumph.

The most he has said to Nadal in passing is “hola”, and the great man said “hola” back, apparently. “I’ve always known him,” the 22-year-old said, “but he’s probably not known me.”

Edmund, one of the game’s relaxed citizens, is unfazed by the prospect of his first match against Nadal. “I played Novak Djokovic three times, Andy Murray twice, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic. It’s another top-10 opportunity for me.

“I like the clay. I’ve been getting better on it over the past few days. It will be just a great experience. It will be a tough match, whatever the court. The flipside, he’s not played me. Different game styles. At the start of the match, no one gets a head start just because of ranking or past wins. It’s 0-0, game on. That’s how I’ve got to approach it.”

Would the British No3 paint the lines in desperation, perhaps? “My game is an aggressive game anyway. So, some times, if against a top guy I miss a ball, it might come across as, ‘Oh, he’s gone for more’. I’m very honest with my game style. That’s just the way I play. Whoever it is, I may miss a few lines.

“But, playing the top guys, maybe subconsciously they do force you to take risks, especially the better movers – not necessarily the top guys but the better movers – because they get to loads of balls and make you play loads. You do realise that, and it makes you go for more.”

Edmund, who beat Evans on hardcourt in a Challenger tournament last year, deserved his first-round win but the match was not without its moments.

Mildly shocked to be 1-4 and love-40 down against a compatriot who admits clay is a foreign country on his tennis atlas, Edmund recovered strongly to take the first set and dominated the second, sealing it with an ace after a prolonged finish. “I saved myself the embarrassment of playing Rafa,” Evans joked before dashing for a plane back to Birmingham.

Edmund struck 28 winners to 13 and Evans gifted him 27 unforced errors. On the ground, however, Edmund was hitting the ball at least 15mph harder over the course of the contest.

The 26-year-old Evans is marginally ahead of Edmund in the ATP world Tour rankings and has played impressively against elite opponents over the past year but was a decided second pick in this fight. While he has never been in the main draw at the French Open, having failed in qualifying, he is 12 spots away from being seeded but even that does not seem to excite him.

Playing on clay, Evans said was, “just an exercise – a pointless one at that. My game style doesn’t match up that well on this surface. I played pretty good, actually, in the first set. As soon as he found his forehand, it was pretty much over.”

Did he think Edmund’s forehand could stretch Nadal? “I think Rafa’s faced a few bigger than that,” was his honest judgment, adding: “There’s going to come a point where Kedders does beat some of these real good guys on clay, there’s no doubt about that.”

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