US Open: Dan Evans just one more upset from meeting with 'nice guy' Roger Federer
British surprise package has nearly doubled his career earnings with victories at the US Open
Just three months ago Dan Evans earned $1,300 (about £840) for winning a title in Sweden on the Futures circuit, which is the lowest tier on the professional tour. By reaching the third round at the US Open the 23-year-old from Birmingham has already guaranteed himself a pay cheque of $93,000 (£60,000), which is nearly half his total career earnings. Another victory on Sunday, over Spain's Tommy Robredo, would take his prize-money this week to $165,000 (£106,000) – and send him into a likely fourth-round meeting with Roger Federer.
The world No 179's remarkable story took another turn with his 1-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Bernard Tomic on Thursday night. Tomic, the world No 52, is ranked 40 places lower than Kei Nishikori, Evans' first-round victim, but the 20-year-old Australian is an outstanding prospect.
Evans, who revealed that Tomic's father and coach had turned him down as a practice partner in Miami last year because he did not think he was good enough, said it was the best win of his life.
While Evans insists that the prize-money is not uppermost in his thoughts, there is little doubt that the recent turnaround in his results – and subsequent financial rewards – have saved his career. When the Lawn Tennis Association, frustrated at Evans' lack of dedication, stopped his funding last year for the second time, his family warned him that they would not give him financial support indefinitely if he did not make a proper commitment.
Dave Evans, the player's father, told Radio 5 Live: "There comes a time when we had to say 'stop' and we can't keep funding him until he starts putting it in. That's more or less what we said.
"For a lot of people in the country over the past two years, things have been very tight. There isn't endless money and obviously with a tennis player – Dan does a lot of travelling – it takes a lot of money. I said to him that at the end of the day, unless he makes that commitment, goes out there and actually tries to be a tennis player, he would have to think about getting himself a job."
As for his son's chequered past – which included sanctions from the LTA after he was seen out drinking at 3am on a day when he was playing in the junior tournament at Wimbledon – Evans Snr said: "He hasn't always done what he's supposed to have done, but he's made a commitment to try to be a tennis player. There are so many distractions for young people these days and he got side-tracked."
The ranking points won here in New York could also help to transform Evans' career. Reaching the third round is worth 90 points, while another win would take his reward to 180. Until recently Evans was playing in Futures tournaments, where the champions earn just 18 points.
Even if he loses his next match Evans is likely to climb about 30 places at the end of this tournament. Being ranked around No 150 in the world should get him at least into qualifying at most tournaments on the main tour beneath Masters Series level.
Evans will have no reason to fear Robredo. The 31-year-old Spaniard, a former world No 5, is enjoying an Indian summer to his career, but has never gone beyond the fourth round here. Eleven of his 12 titles have been won on clay.
The winner will next meet Federer, assuming the Swiss beats France's Adrian Mannarino, the world No 63, this evening.
Evans practised with Federer earlier this week. "It was amazing actually to hit with someone so good," the Briton said. "I really enjoyed it. He's a nice guy. He was interested in what I did."
Federer returned the compliment. "I thought he played really nice," the former world No 1 said. "He's got a great shot. I'm still a little bit surprised he beat Tomic, because we know what Bernard can do. But great effort for him.
"To be in a third round of a Slam is a huge opportunity. Doesn't get easier from here, but it should give him a ton of confidence. And it's great for Britain, no doubt about it."
Almost the only problem for Evans recently has been sore nipples, which he taped after sending for the trainer before the fourth set against Tomic. "My nipples were about the colour of your shirt," he said with a smile. "It was just agony. Oh, the stick I'm going to get back home is devastating."
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