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Evans and Dart making their mark in battle for Oz places

 

By Eleanor Crooks

Dan Evans and Harriet Dart will fly the flag for Great Britain in the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

Evans, back at Melbourne Park for the first time in two years following his drugs ban, had to dig deep to battle past Austrian Jurij Rodionov 6-4 3-6 7-5.

The 28-year-old from Birmingham is looking to compete in the main draw of a Slam for the first time since a first-round loss at the French Open in 2017, shortly before his positive test for cocaine was revealed.

Evans has climbed back to 190th in the rankings and has fond memories of Melbourne Park having reached the fourth round two years ago.

Looking lean and focused, Evans played a strong first set, including winning a point with a spectacular shot played behind his back.

But a poor start to the second set cost him and the decider was an up-and-down affair, Evans eventually moving through to a clash with Italy's Paolo Lorenzi.

Dart's only previous appearance in the main draw of a Slam came at Wimbledon last summer, where she took a set off Karolina Pliskova.

The 22-year-old Londoner made a great start to the season by winning four matches at the Brisbane International last week and continued that form with a 7-6 (7/4) 6-1 victory over China's Xu Shilin.

Dart, at a career-high ranking of 132nd, will face 10th seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia.

James Ward, who is working his way back up the rankings after knee problems, lost 6-4 3-6 6-3 to Argentina's Marco Trungelliti.

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