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A British man not named Andy Murray advances at U.S. Open after big upset

updated 7:09 PM EDT, Mon August 26, 2013
Used to being the only British man in the second round at grand slams, Andy Murray -- if he advances -- will have company at the U.S. Open after Dan Evans upset Kei Nishikori in straight sets. Used to being the only British man in the second round at grand slams, Andy Murray -- if he advances -- will have company at the U.S. Open after Dan Evans upset Kei Nishikori in straight sets.
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The end for Blake
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Daniel Evans pulls off a major upset on the opening day of tennis' U.S. Open
  • Evans, ranked 179th, beats No. 11 seed Kei Nishikori in straight sets in New York
  • Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na were first-round women's winners
  • James Blake will retire after the U.S. Open, putting an end to his 14-year pro career

(CNN) -- So used to being the only British man in the second round at grand slams -- especially outside Wimbledon -- Andy Murray will have company at the U.S. Open.

Although Murray didn't play his first-round match against Michael Llodra on Monday, the defending champion is fully expected to defeat the French veteran.

And if he indeed gets to the round of 64, he will find qualifier Dan Evans alongside him.

Read: Murray ends drought

Evans became the first men's player outside the top 150 in the world rankings to defeat a top-15 rival at the U.S. Open in six years when he dispatched Japan's Kei Nishikori.

The 179th-ranked Evans didn't only beat Nishikori -- he won in straight sets 6-4 6-4 6-2. After Evans rallied from a break down in the first set, he cruised.

"When I saw the draw, it was a little bit daunting but I went out and I played a good game and he didn't react that well to how I was playing," Evans told Sky Sports.

Once described as the bad boy of British tennis because he liked partying and didn't practice hard enough, Evans has seemingly turned his career around in recent months.

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The 23-year-old sent Britain into the Davis Cup world group playoffs when he crushed Russia's Evgeny Donskoy in April in the decisive fifth match.

Murray decided to skip the series but is expected to feature when Britain faces Croatia in September with a spot in next year's world group at stake.

With his performance in New York, Evans now has the edge over James Ward in being the No. 2 behind Murray in the tie. Ward failed to qualify for Flushing Meadows.

Ahead of the U.S. Open, Evans reached challenger finals in Vancouver and California to see his ranking move from around 250 to his current 179.

Qualifying and toppling Nishikori will see the diminutive shot-maker's ranking rise yet further.

"I've just been on the practice court a lot more and in the gym a lot more," Evans said. "It's been a gradual process from January onwards and I'm reaping the rewards of it now."

Britain had another winner on day one of the season's last major, as Laura Robson overcame Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5 6-0.

Robson was one of the young stars of the 2012 edition, sending crowd favorite Kim Clijsters into singles retirement and also upending Li Na.

Read: Shock loss for Clijsters

Her 2013, though, has been blighted by injuries and a coaching change. She has yet to register a quarterfinal showing at any event this campaign.

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Elsewhere, men's favorite Rafael Nadal eased past American Ryan Harrison in straight sets and Venus Williams maintained her record of never losing in the first round of the U.S. Open when she beat 12th-seeded Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-2.

Nadal missed last year's U.S. Open due to knee troubles.

"For me, the chance to be back here playing -- I have a chance to compete this year -- is great," Nadal, unbeaten on hard courts this year, told reporters.

Flipkens, the Wimbledon semifinalist, had gotten the better of Williams in Toronto this month in the 33-year-old American's comeback from a back injury.

Blake to retire

Andy Roddick retired last year after the U.S. Open and Mardy Fish's days on the tennis tour might be numbered given his health issues.

Now a third member of the U.S.'s older generation, James Blake -- like Williams 33 -- said Monday in an emotional news conference he would quit following the U.S. Open.

"Despite the tears, I'm actually really happy about this," Blake told reporters.

Diagnosed with severe scoliosis as a teen and later breaking his neck in a practice accident, Blake persevered.

He reached a career high of No. 4, has claimed 10 titles, won a Davis Cup and played at the prestigious year-end championships.

His career, however, has been slowed by injuries in recent years and he became a father in 2012.

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