Former bad boy Evans is showing his class at last
It might be hard to imagine Dan Evans, the one-time bad boy of British tennis, picking up an award at the Association of Tennis Professionals’ end-of-season extravaganza at the O2 Arena in London, but at the rate he is going the 26-year-old Brummie might need to start dusting down his best suit.
Evans began this year at No.183 in the world and after his latest victory — a stunning 6-4 6-4 5-7 6-2 win over Alexander Zverev in the second round of the US Open — is projected to climb to a career-high No.52 and could be in the frame for the ‘Most Improved Player of the Year’ award.
Evans, who will next meet Stan Wawrinka today, became the third British man to reach the third round, along with Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund.
It is the best British showing here since Roger Taylor, Paul Hutchins and Peter Curtis made the third round in 1968, and the best at any Grand Slam since Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Danny Sapsford reached the last 32 at Wimbledon in 1999.
Evans considered his victory over Zverev, the most exciting teenager in the men’s game, to be the best of his career. While the 19-year-old German argued over line calls, smashed his racket after dropping serve and repeatedly lost his focus, Evans was a model of concentration.
The success of the World No.64 and Edmund, the World No.84, leaves Leon Smith, Britain’s Davis Cup captain, with a tricky choice of second singles player behind Murray for the semi-final against Argentina in Glasgow in a fortnight’s time.
Fourteen months ago, Evans was struggling with a long-term knee injury and was ranked No.763 as his progress faltered once again after the latest false dawn in a career that had too often been marked by controversy.
In his younger days Evans twice had his funding stopped by the Lawn Tennis Association because of his off-court behaviour and lack of commitment — on the first occasion he was spotted partying at 3am on the day of a junior doubles match at Wimbledon — and as recently as three years ago he admitted he was “pretty bad at my job” because he did not train hard enough.
Since last summer, however, a renewed commitment has seen Evans realise the potential that was always there. Evans said: “I do sometimes look back and think, ‘It’s been pretty good, hasn’t it?’ Then at other times I look forward and think, ‘Come on, you can get inside the top 50’. When you start winning the right matches your ranking points really go up.”
Asked if he would have settled for his current world ranking at the start of the year, Evans said: “I would have taken your hand off. It’s been a pretty interesting year and I’m happy with how it’s been. If someone said I wasn’t playing for the rest of the year, I’d be happy with that ranking. Luckily I’m still going and still have a few tournaments to go after this one.”
For all his dedication, Evans remains his own man. He pulled out of the Davis Cup trip to Belgrade at short notice, withdrew from John Lloyd’s World Team Tennis squad this summer and turned down the chance to play at the Olympics, which he described as “a pointless exercise” because there were no ranking points on offer and he did not think he could win a medal.
On occasions times have been so tough for Evans that he rarely competed abroad because it was too expensive, but in the last two months he has earned the equivalent of more than £220,000, which includes the $140,000 (about £105,000) which he has won here so far.
As for his meeting with Wawrinka, Evans said: “Hopefully that will not be on Court 4. It’s going to be good fun. It’s a bit like Wimbledon. I had a good win (against Alexandr Dolgopolov) and then played Roger Federer. It will be on a good court. I’ll look forward to it. I’ve never hit or played against him, but he’s a big step up.”
Murray, meanwhile, will take on Paolo Lorenzi, who is enjoying the best run of his career.
The 34-year-old Italian, who beat Gilles Simon in a five-set marathon that took nearly five hours, had won only two of the 21 Grand Slam matches he had played before this week.
Edmund was due to meet John Isner last night.
On the rise: Dan Evans is in the running for the ‘Most Improved Player of the Year’ award after claiming notable scalps