US Open: Battle of the bad boys as Dan Evans takes on Bernard Tomic
British No 3 aims to continue improved performance against controversial Australian
A player who was accused of "tanking" here at last year's US Open and who has admitted not always giving of his best will tomorrow take on an opponent who confessed earlier this year that he had not realised his potential because he did not work hard enough.
Bernard Tomic and Dan Evans, who meet here this afternoon in the second round, are separated by 127 places in the world rankings, but the Australian and the Briton have plenty in common, including significant talent.
Tomic, a former world junior No 1, has long been hailed as an outstanding talent. Two years ago, aged 18, he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and in January this year he won his first tour title, but controversy has dogged his career.
Last year he admitted making only "85 per cent" effort in a defeat in Shanghai, was accused of a "tank job" by John McEnroe after a straight-sets drubbing here by Andy Roddick and was dropped by Australia's Davis Cup captain because of his poor attitude.
The world No 52's off-the-court escapades included a court appearance for driving offences in his brightly coloured sports car and a visit from the police after reports that he had been brawling with a male friend in a hot tub after a party. If Tomic Jnr is not making the headlines, his father and coach John can step into the breach. Following his alleged physical confrontation with his son's hitting partner in Madrid in May, Tomic Snr has been denied accreditation at a series of tournaments. The US Open has followed suit, with staff told to deny him admission if he tries to enter as a paying spectator.
Evans' misdemeanours have been lower-profile than Tomic's, but they have twice cost him his funding from the Lawn Tennis Association, while successive coaches have been frustrated by his lack of dedication. Evans may not be in Tomic's league in terms of achievement, but the 23-year-old from Birmingham has a talent that has long belied his world ranking, which currently stands at No 179.
The first-round wins of the two men demonstrated their better qualities. Tomic, who had won only one match in three tournaments following Wimbledon, came from behind to beat Spain's Albert Ramos in five sets, while Evans, who has demonstrated a much improved attitude of late, stunned Japan's Kei Nishikori, beating the world No 12 in straight sets.
"I was very surprised," Tomic said. "I thought Kei was going to win that match. It shows you how anyone can play. All these players that are playing here, they're good.
"You can't take anyone for granted these days. It proves that a guy that's 150 can play on his day and beat a guy who's almost top 10.
"I'm sure if he plays against me the way he was playing against Kei it's going to be very difficult for me," Tomic added.
Evans' rapid climb up the rankings has been noted by Lagardère International, a management company which represents Jerzy Janowicz and Kevin Anderson and has now added the British No 3 to its stable.
Stuart Duguid, Evans' new agent, said: "We had been following his results over the summer. He made the finals of two Challengers. There's been a shift in guys making breakthroughs at 22, 23 or 24, rather than at 18 or 19 as it used to be. We saw his ranking climb over the summer and we thought he might be on the cusp."
He added: "With Dan, it's all about the upside, and we really don't know what that is yet. He is certainly a guy with a huge amount of talent. If he gets it together he can be a top 50 player and better. He has clearly not maxed out yet."
Meanwhile Heather Watson's US Open ended in the first round today when she was beaten 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 by Romania's Simona Halep, though the British No 2 was far from disgraced in losing to one of the year's form players. Halep, the world No 19, has won four titles this year, a total bettered only by Serena Williams. Watson has had a difficult season following her diagnosis with glandular fever in March, but the world No 76 played some splendidly aggressive tennis and was within five points of victory when she stood at 4-4 and 40-0 in the second set, only to serve poorly and let her opponent back in.
The 21-year-old from Guernsey could not hide her disappointment at her post-match press conference, which ended in tears.
"I think it hurts a lot because I was so close, but if I keep making those opportunities for myself, I'll take some of them," she said.
Watson admitted that fitness had been a factor in the final set of this match, though she said she had been stepping up her training, having made a cautious return earlier in the summer after a two-month absence.
"I've been doing a lot," Watson said. "I've been running about four times a week, I've been in the gym every day doing weights. I don't know quite what it is. I think it could be a few things – just getting back to match fitness.
"Because when you're practising, you play free and loose, but in a match situation you know there's a lot more pressure. I was a bit tense in the way I was moving and hitting the ball."
Laura Robson, the British No 1, was waiting to play her second-round match tonight against France's Caroline Garcia after rain seriously disrupted the third day's play. Andy Murray was due to play his first-round match against Frenchman Michaël Llodra in the first match of the night session.
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