Dan Evans has capped off a remarkable 12 months by winning the Taipei ATP challenger event, beating Russian Konstantin Kravchuk. The tournament win is Evans 3rd Challenger level title in the last 9 months, and with it, the Brit has finally secured a lucrative place in top 100 world rankings for the very first time in his roller coaster professional career. At 25 years of age, has the Brit finally come of age?
It was a different story just 12 months ago, one which had seen Evans almost disappear from the tour and plummet outside the top 700 in the ATP Rankings. Evans has not been without his fair share of critics for the majority of his career, with many of them criticising whether he had the drive and commitment to genuinely make it as a professional tennis player. His critics had more ammunition last year when the Brummie was fined £350.00 for failing to turn up to a low level futures tournament in the Wirral. Evans’ credibility and seemingly his passion for the game was at an all-time low.
First ImpressionsEvans first truly appeared on the British Tennis radar after making a name for himself aged 21, when he was the star of the show in Great Britain’s thrilling 3-2 Davis Cup win against Slovakia. Evans won his first ever Davis Cup match by beating the much higher ranked Lukas Lacko, and then held his nerve to come through a 5 set deciding rubber against another higher ranked player, Martin Klizan. Evans continued to shine in 2013 when he not only qualified for the US Open but went on to beat much higher ranked Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic before narrowly losing against Tommy Robredo in the 3rd round. However, unlike the success that both Nishikori, 26, and Tomic, 23, have enjoyed since – both are now top 25 players – Evans’ career stuttered.
By Evans’ own regard, he has always had disciplinary and motivational issues that have affected his career. The LTA suspended him as an 18 year old after he was photographed in the early hours at a nightclub, and in addition to this suspension, his LTA funding was withdrawn. There was a time that Evans even had to contemplate whether or not to carry on his professional career, with his parents helping to support him due to the spiralling costs that are involved in the tough career of a lower-ranked professional player.
Many of Evans critics felt he had wasted his talent, and this opinion was further compounded after his career did not progress after his breakthrough at the 2013 US open; Evans’ career, instead of spiralling upwards, stumbled downwards. The next two years were very disappointing for Evans: a mixture of injuries, lack of form, and fitness and injury problems meant he slipped further and further down the rankings. His reputation of not being dedicated enough for the sport was not helped when his coach at the time, the late Julien Hoferlin, questioned whether Evans had the commitment to make it as a top tennis player.
A Stunning Revival
However, the last 12 months have seen an unbelievable turnaround for Dan Evans. With the added bonus of not having a persistent knee injury trouble him, Evans has done what all good players should do: answered his critics by getting results on the court. Evans worked very hard on his fitness and training schedule and went on a remarkable run of winning 29 out of 33 matches at the end of last year, bagging four ITF Futures titles in the process. Evans bagged some serious air miles and time zones in the process with tournaments from Vancouver to Sydney, silencing those that had previously questioned his dedication or commitment to the sport. This year has seen Evans’ reputation grow further, and with this weekend’s triumph in Taiwan, he’s now the highest he has ever been in the men’s game.Leon Smith, coach of the 2015 GB Davis Cup winning team, has always been a huge supporter of Dan Evans, and has believed in his ability to make it as a top 50 player from his early days as a junior. Smith raised more then a few eyebrows when he unexpectedly picked Evans for the crucial semi-final tie against Australia ahead of higher ranked Kyle Edmund and James Ward. This was a huge leap of faith by Smith, but acted as a huge confidence boost for Evans, and was arguably deserved, given the superlative form he was enjoying at the time. Evans did himself proud in all the matches and firmly became part of the jubilant and now historic GB Davis Cup winning team.
Dan Evans by nature is a very laid back and relaxed individual, which is why I believe some of his critics feel he is not dedicated or driven enough. Evans in the last 12 months has dispelled many of these critics. He has fully deserved his top 100 ranking, and for the first time in 37 years GB now has four males sat proudly in the top 100. This breakthrough will now enable Evans to obtain direct entry into many of the lucrative ATP 250, 500 and 1000 events and will now also give him a chance to gain direct entries into the Grand Slams. Whether it’s thanks to a constant desire to prove his critics wrong, the result of a now-or-never decision made in mid-2015, or simply a result of an ever-increasing maturity as the Brummie reaches his more adult years, the Brit has done what many people thought would never happen and truly made something of his career. With the top 100 now ticked off the list, only one question remains: how far can Evans go now?