Dan Evans is putting friendship aside after earning a blockbuster showdown against returning superstar Roger Federer at the Qatar Open.

Federer has not played competitively since his semi-final exit at the 2020 Australian Open – the 20-time grand slam champion having undergone knee surgery last year.

But the 39-year-old Swiss great will make his long-awaited comeback against Evans in Doha on Wednesday.

Evans – who has been practicing with Federer – outlasted Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 1-6 6-2 in the round of 32 at the ATP 250 tournament.

"We obviously practised for [the] past two weeks [in Dubai], and I thought he was playing pretty well," Evans said. "We played plenty of sets. It was competitive. But it's all very different when you get on the match court.

"It will be a lot different tomorrow. It's going to be at night, as well, so a little slower. So we'll see how the match goes."

Second seed Federer – a record three-time Qatar Open champion – watched from the stands on Tuesday and Evans added: "He obviously has seen a lot of my game the past few weeks, so I guess I would say it was more out of boredom.

"He's probably [was] waiting for his practice [more] than scouting out what's happening on the court. Let's put it down to that."

Elsewhere, sixth seed David Goffin topped Filip Krajinovic 6-4 6-4 en route to the last 16 but three-time slam champion Stan Wawrinka was stunned 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 by qualifier Lloyd Harris.

Marton Fucsovics, Vasek Pospisil and Malek Jaziri also advanced through to the next round.

At the Open 13 Province, three-time champion and French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrated his first ATP Tour victory since 2019.

Tsonga – hampered by injuries, including left knee surgery –rallied from the brink to see off Feliciano Lopez 3-6 6-4 7-5 in Marseille on Tuesday.

"This is probably one of the best victories of my career, because it was tough for me to play tennis. I had so much pain for so many months," Tsonga said in an on-court interview. "Today, I won one match. That was one of my goals for these few weeks… I’m happy like a kid."

Next up is fourth-seeded countryman Ugo Humbert, who upstaged sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-4.

Meanwhile, Federico Coria and Federico Delbonis were among the victors at the Chile Open.

Novak Djokovic admitted there was plenty of room for improvement after coming through a "difficult spot" at the Australian Open, where Nick Kyrgios thrilled the crowd with an impressive comeback.

Top seed Djokovic was made to work for his 6-3 6-7 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 triumph against Frances Tiafoe as he reached the third round in Melbourne. 

Kyrgios is also through, albeit he even surprised himself by rallying from the brink of defeat to knock out 29th seed Ugo Humbert in the evening session. 

Stan Wawrinka was on the wrong of an upset on Wednesday, but there were no such problems for fellow seeds Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. 

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will have to put their friendship to one side when they face each other next, the former setting up the all-Canadian clash by beating Bernard Tomic in three sets.


'PASSIVE' DJOKOVIC STILL MAKING PROGRESS

In the first meeting between the pair, the impressive Tiafoe went toe-to-toe with Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena.  

The 23-year-old American's performance – coupled with the Melbourne heat – made the eight-time Australian Open champion sweat, albeit Djokovic felt he could have made life easier for himself.

"I was at times not feeling my timing as well as I normally am. Credit to him. I think he has managed to come out with a great performance and quality of tennis. He put me in a difficult spot," he said. 

"I had my chances early in the second set. If I broke him there, maybe the course of the match would be different.   

"But again, he was holding his serve very well. I was not really using my break-point chances very well. At times I was too passive. Just wasn't feeling the ball today as well as I normally do." 

Next up for Djokovic is another player from the United States in the form of Taylor Fritz, who ousted compatriot Reilly Opelka in a five-set battle.


IN THE NICK OF TIME

Kyrgios described his clash with Humbert as "one of the craziest matches I've ever played" after prevailing 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 - much to the delight of an enthralled audience who watched the drama unfold on John Cain Arena.

The Australian smashed a racket, lost his cool with umpire Marijana Veljovic over a faulty net cord sensor and had to save a pair of match points before eventually coming out on top in a see-saw battle.

"I just remember, down that end, when I was a couple of match points down, I don't know what was going on," Kyrgios - who dropped to his knees after sealing victory - said in his on-court interview.

"If you were inside my head, there were some dark thoughts in there. But I live to fight another day and hopefully I can continue to play good tennis in front of you guys."

His reward is a clash with Thiem, the third seed having dismissed the challenge of German Dominik Koepfer in straight sets as he dropped just six games.


STAN-D AND DELIVER

Wawrinka appeared on course to survive a serious scare when he rallied from two sets down against Marton Fucsovics, but the Swiss was unable to seize on the chances that came his way in a tense tie-break. 

Fucsovics had needed over four hours to overcome wild card Marc Polmans in the previous round and, once again, found a way to get over the finishing line at the end of a Melbourne marathon. 

The Hungarian trailed 6-1 during the decisive breaker, yet hit back to stun the 17th seed 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9). For Wawrinka, there was frustration at the missed opportunities, albeit he also praised his conqueror. 
  
"From 6-1 up, I started to hesitate a little bit in the way I was playing," he said. "I wanted to put the ball maybe too much in and I [was] not going completely for my shots and that's when I started to miss a little bit and it helped him to come back in the match.  

"He was fighting well, he's a tough player, he's a good player and he deserved to win." 

Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka exited in the second round after a marathon loss to Marton Fucsovics.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, bowed out after a 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9) loss to Fucsovics on a warm Wednesday in Melbourne.

Fucsovics saved three match points on John Cain Arena in an encounter that lasted three hours, 59 minutes.

Wawrinka led 6-1 and 8-4 in the super tie-break, but Fucsovics won the final five points and seven of the last eight.

The Hungarian continues to enjoy the year's first grand slam, where he has reached the fourth round twice in the past three years.

Wawrinka, though, has struggled in Australia in recent years.

The Swiss star has now been eliminated in the second round in three of the past four years, while reaching the quarter-finals in 2020.

Wawrinka rallied from two sets to love down and 5-3 behind in the fifth, but wasted his chances in the super tie-break.

The war of words between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios continued on day one of the Australian Open, while Gael Monfils was reduced to tears after a first-round exit.

Reigning champion Djokovic cruised past Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-1 6-2 in just over an hour and a half but was unwilling to be drawn on comments made by Kyrgios following the home favourite's 6-4 6-4 6-4 success against Frederico Ferreira Silva.

Djokovic, who has now won 15 straight Australian Open matches, will take on Frances Tiafoe next and Kyrgios has a meeting with Ugo Humbert. A potential crossing of their paths on court could not happen until the semi-finals.

Monfils, seeded 10th at Melbourne Park, could not hide his emotions after succumbing to a 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 defeat in a five-set thriller against Emil Ruusuvuori.

Benoit Paire was the only other seed to go out on day one, with Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Diego Schwartzman and Stan Wawrinka picking up victories.

 

"HE'S A STRANGE CAT"

On the eve of the first grand slam of the year Djokovic said he had "no respect" for Kyrgios off the court, which the Australian was confused by as he pointed out the charitable work he has done during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyrgios was previously critical of the Adria Tour organised by Djokovic last year, which ended with multiple players testing positive for COVID-19.

Asked about the Serbian's pre-tournament comment, Kyrgios said: "It actually would make complete sense to me if he was like, 'Look, I don't respect the guy on the court.' Because I understand if he doesn't agree with some of my antics on the court that I have done in the past.

"He's a very strange cat, Novak is. Heck of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone that's partying with his shirt off during a global pandemic, I don't know if I can take any slack from that man. That's as bad as it gets for me."

When a reporter asked if they could read those comments out to Djokovic in his post-match news conference, the 17-time major champion replied: "You can read it, but I'm not gonna answer to anything."

Upon hearing the remarks and being asked if he had a reply, Djokovic simply said: "No."

 

ANOTHER LOSS FOR MONFILS

Having lost his first-round match to Ruusuvuori, who incredibly saved 17 break points, Monfils remained without a win on the ATP Tour since February 2020.

The Frenchman was eliminated in the first round at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2006 and admitted he had lost all his self-belief and was finding it extremely difficult to get himself back on track.

"I don't have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can't," said Monfils.

"I don’t know when it's going to end. It's hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I've lost again. I can't serve, I'm playing badly. I'm being honest and it's going to take time."

 

BEST OF THE REST

Thiem made light work of Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Dominik Koepfer, but Zverev had to come from a set down to beat Marcos Giron 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-2. He will face Maxime Cressy next.

Denis Shapovalov also had to fight back to defeat Jannik Sinner, who reached the French Open quarter-finals last year, in an entertaining five-setter on Margaret Court Arena.

Marin Cilic, the runner-up at Melbourne Park in 2018, went down 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-5) to Grigor Dimitrov, while Pablo Carreno Busta overcame Kei Nishikori 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

There were straight-set wins for Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime against Paulo Sousa, Federico Coria and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe respectively, and Schwartzman defeated Elias Ymer 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 2-6 6-2.

Novak Djokovic said it was "a tough one" to take after Serbia's hopes of retaining the ATP Cup title were ended by defeat to Germany.

The world number one scored a tense 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 7-5 victory over Alexander Zverev in their singles rubber, levelling the match after Jan-Lennard Struff beat Dusan Lajovic in three sets.

Zverev and Struff then teamed up in doubles to net a 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 10-7 win over Djokovic and Nikola Cacic.

The singles workout and win sets up the eight-time Australian Open champion well for the start of that grand slam next week, which was the consolation Djokovic could take from defeat.

Speaking about his singles clash with Zverev, Djokovic said: "It was anybody's game really. He was a set up, a couple points here and there in the beginning of the second. I just returned well when I needed to and closed out the match.

"It's never easy playing against Sascha [Zverev] when he's in form, and he's in really good form. We pushed each other to the very limit, and I'm glad that I had such a battle with him.

"It's unfortunate we lost the tie. That's what this competition is all about. It's about the team, not about winning one match, a singles match. Yeah, it's a tough one."

Germany advance to face Russia in the semi-finals on Saturday, with Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev a formidable combination awaiting them.

Spain secured a shot at Italy in the second semi-final, despite a 2-1 defeat to Greece on Friday.

The Spanish team needed just one win in the group-stage match to advance, and that predictably came as Pablo Carreno Busta, ranked 16th by the ATP, beat world number 462 Michail Pervolarakis.

His 6-3 6-4 success could not be matched by team-mate Roberto Bautista Agut, who fell to a 7-5 7-5 defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas, while Spain retired from the doubles rubber after one game, giving Greece a 2-1 success in the tie.

It remains to be seen whether Rafael Nadal will be fit to play any part in the semi-final, with the 20-time grand slam champion having been absent so far in the campaign due to a back injury.

"He's working very hard to recover his best feelings," said Spain captain Pepe Vendrell.

"Obviously he couldn't play any matches during the week. It's a situation that we have to study. But day by day he's improving. We will see [on Saturday] if he can play."


AWAY FROM THE ATP CUP, WAWRINKA ABANDONS

In the Murray River Open, Stan Wawrinka withdrew from his quarter-final with Jeremy Chardy after beating Australian Alex Bolt in a tough three-set match earlier in the day. Corentin Moutet, Dan Evans and Felix Auger-Aliassime joined Chardy in the last-four line-up.

Evans defeated Borna Coric, who had eliminated Australian hope Nick Kyrgios in his previous match.

All ATP and WTA tournaments are being played at Melbourne Park this week.

Thursday's play was cancelled due to a COVID-19 case affecting a worker from a hotel that accommodated quarantining players, and that meant Friday's schedule was packed.

The Great Ocean Road Open also saw players needing to win two matches in a day to reach the semi-finals, with Karen Khachanov, Thiago Monteiro and the Italian pair of Jannik Sinner and Stefano Travaglia coming through.

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