Newly committed to the sport of tennis, Great Britain's Dan Evans has pieced together a pair of impressive wins at the U.S. Open. (Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - Britain's Dan Evans, a qualifier ranked 179th in the world, continued his giant-killing run through the U.S. Open, following up his opening win over 11th seed Kei Nishikori with a second round win over Bernard Tomic, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 on Thursday.
The 23-year old from Birmingham, England, who was known more for his penchant for late-night partying than his on-court prowess, credits his commitment to being more professional about his career for his success. Evans' reputation as a party-goer is well-known within British tennis circles. Laura Robson made a crack about his tattoos on Twitter and couldn't help taking a friendly pop at him in an interview.
"He's got a Jesus tattoo," Robson said with a laugh. "If you've ever spoken to him, he's really not the most religious person."
According to The BBC, Evans was suspended by the LTA in 2008 and had his funding revoked for hitting the nightclub circuit during Wimbledon. A year ago he was ranked outside the top 400 but showed promise after two turns as a Davis Cup hero for "Team GB". He scored two big singles wins against Slovakia, beating No. 65 Lukas Lacko and No. 120 Martin Klizan. Earlier this year he won the decisive singles against Russia, defeating No. 80 Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets. After that win he was asked why he couldn't replicate this type of success on a weekly basis, and he basically copped to being a slacker.
"I don't train hard enough, I don't work hard enough," Evans said. "I know that's the reason. It's my fault. I'm obviously pretty bad at my job."
After some tough love from his father, Evans finally chose to fully commit to his tennis. "He said 'you've wasted all your money' doing what I was doing, going out and stuff," Evans told the BBC. "I was down to not a lot left and he said he would help if I would concentrate, and obviously I'm grateful for that." Evans rejoined the LTA's National Tennis Center, where he's forced to abide by a 10:30 p.m. curfew. Back in the good graces of his federation, the LTA has also provided him with a coach and fitness trainer.
Now he says he's in the best shape of his life. That showed on Thursday, as he his game got better and better as the match wore on, while Tomic struggled.
"I think I started well today but just lost the concentration, lost my energy level," Tomic said. "It sort of dropped. I couldn't execute my shots, go after my shots, and from then he took over."
"Tomic looked pretty tired, especially in the third and fourth, like when it was going on and on," Evans said. "I think he challenged quite a few balls [to get] a bit of breathing space. That gave me a bit of confidence."
A year ago in Miami, Fla., then ranked 291 in the world, Evans actually approached Tomic's team to see if Tomic would be up for a hit. They passed.
"I was there playing qualies," Evans recalled. "His dad sort of fobbed me off and said I wasn't good enough to practice with him, yeah. We went to practice, it was all booked. Got to the court. In Miami, there's a little practice hut. I got to the practice hut. No, no, he's a qualifier, I'm not hitting with you. So it was one of those. A bit embarrassing, but hey."
Also embarrassing is the amount of flack Evans has already received for calling the trainer after the third set to deal with a bout of nipple chafing, an ailment often seen with marathon runners, but never with tennis players. "Well, my nipples were about the color of your shirt," Evans said, referring to one reporter's bright pink polo. "It was just agony. Oh, the stick I'm going to get back home is, like, devastating."
Oh, you don't have to wait until you get home, Dan.
Next up for Evans is a fellow one-handed backhander, 19th-seed Tommy Robredo.