After the injury-laden withdrawals over the past 48 hours before next week’s Monte-Carlo Masters, there was some good tennis news to report: Casper Ruud returned to winning ways on clay in Estoril yesterday, before Britain’s no. 2 player Dan Evans snapped a six-match losing streak in Marrakech today.
Ruud recovers vs. Sousa, Evans eases past Popyrin
It feels like just yesterday, that Britain’s no. 2 and world no. 30 Dan Evans hinted at a week’s break to get his mind off tennis and reset after another disappointing defeat – this time against Lorenzo Sonego in Miami, especially after winning the first set.
12 days later on the clay in Marrakech, the tournament’s second seed was dominant en route to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Australia’s Alexei Popyrin on his least favourite surface. He’ll play Italian qualifier Andrea Vavassori on Friday morning (11.30am BST).
Popyrin, who won the French Open juniors title in 2017, now drops to a 0-3 H2H record against the 32-year-old – who spoke about getting back on the winning trail and his fondness for Morocco as he could’ve played elsewhere this week:
“It was a tough match, I played well.. haven’t won for a few tournaments, so it was important to win again. I enjoyed the match, it was good fun, really like Marrakech and that’s why I came back.”
ATP 250: Marrakech quarter-finals
Lorenzo Musetti  vs. Alexandre Muller
Christopher O’Connell vs. Pavel Kotov
Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Tallon Griekspoor 
Daniel Evans  vs. Andrea Vavassori [Q]
Elsewhere on the ATP scene this week, Casper Ruud recovered from a set down to beat home hopeful Joao Sousa (4-6, 6-2, 6-2) in Estoril yesterday evening.
I wrote this feature on his painful defeat in Miami last month, and while one win isn’t enough to stop a slump of alarming form, it’s a step in the right direction.
The issue has been an inability to back it up with deep tournament runs, as he hasn’t won back-to-back matches on tour since November at the ATP Finals.
Before then, you have to rewind back to his US Open final run for some consistency – so he’ll hope for better luck on clay. Argentina’s Sebastian Baez, world no. 32, is a stern quarter-final test like a series of opponents he’s stumbled against recently.
Tomorrow will be their first-ever H2H meeting (6.30pm BST) and Baez has enjoyed more success on clay lately including the Cordoba title two months ago, so will fancy his chances of causing an upset in what has shaped into a winnable tournament.
Hubert Hurkacz  won the first set in a tiebreak, but was overwhelmed in three sets by Spain’s Bernabes Zapata Miralles this evening, while 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem has won consecutive matches for the first time since October.
Both ATP250 tournaments are there for the taking, as players ramp up before the Monte-Carlo Masters (ATP 1000) begins on April 10.
ATP 250: Estoril QFs
Casper Ruud  vs. Sebastian Baez 
Quentin Halys vs. Dominic Thiem
Marco Cecchinato vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 
Miomir Kecmanovic  vs. Bernabes Zapata Miralles
Picture source: Getty Images