US Open: Dan Evans is good enough to kick on from here, says coach
There have been too many false dawns to predict the course of Dan Evans's career with any certainty, but Leon Smith, Britain's Davis Cup captain, believes the 23-year-old from Birmingham may have turned his most significant corner.
Smith – who coached the young Andy Murray – has been coaching Evans at the US Open as the world No 179 has had the best run of his life.
"I think he's got a taste for this now and I really get the sense from him that it's not going to end here," Smith said. "He's got a taste for what it's like to play on big courts. He's had a lot of good wins against good players. From now on he'll believe that he should be playing regularly at places like this."
Evans's improved results this summer have peaked at Flushing Meadows in spectacular fashion. Having qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament away from Wimbledon (where he has played only via wild cards) for the first time, Evans reached the third round here with victories over Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic, two outstanding young talents. He was due to play Spain's Tommy Robredo late last night, with a fourth-round place at stake against the winner of Roger Federer versus Adrian Mannarino.
Less than four months ago Evans was playing on the low-level Futures circuit – he won a tournament in Sweden in May where his prize money was just $1,300 (£840) – and wondering how much longer he could rely on his family for financial support. In reaching the third round here he guaranteed himself a pay cheque of $93,000 (£60,000).
The catalyst for his improvement was Britain's Davis Cup tie against Russia in April, when he rewarded Smith's faith – the captain controversially selected Evans ahead of Jamie Baker – by winning the deciding rubber. Before New York, Evans reached Challenger finals in Vancouver and Aptos, California.
"I'm impressed with his consistency," Smith said. "I'm impressed with how he's strung so many wins together now. He's played a lot of matches in the last six weeks."
Smith – who is also the head of men's tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association – has shared coaching duties on the trip with Nick Weal, while Steve Kotze has been working on his fitness. "I think Dan can become one of the best athletes out there," Smith said. "His foot speed and court coverage are pretty exceptional. Clearly his stamina is good. Now is the time for him to look at how he can get even more explosive and take his game to another level. That's quite an exciting chapter for him coming up."
Smith believes that playing overseas in better events has been another key to Evans's improvement; until his trip to Sweden in May he had not played outside Britain and Ireland for more than a year.
"In 2012, he went on a long trip at the start of the year then played two great Davis Cup ties against Slovakia and Belgium," Smith said. "Once he gets to Challenger or main tour level he picks it up quickly.
"The difference is that he's now made the decision to do something about his tennis. All the credit to him."
Evans should climb 30 or more places in the next world ranking list. "The good thing is he'll be able to get into some of the bigger Challenger tournaments now. They're tougher, but the way he's playing he has nothing to fear," Smith said.
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