His remarkable run at the US Open may be over, but Dan Evans is hoping that this is just the beginning.
After the best fortnight of the Briton’s career had ended in a third-round defeat to Tommy Robredo in a pulsating match in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Saturday night, Evans set his sights on making tournaments like this the rule, rather than the exception.
“It was a great experience,” said Evans, the world No 179, following his 7-6, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 loss. “No one else [from Britain] has qualified and won two matches here for a long time bar Andy [Murray]. It’s a good stepping stone, but I’m not where I want to be. I’m not in the top 100. I’ve got work to do.
“It’s definitely helped to see how a lot of the guys work, day in day out. I think quite a few of them have been impressed by how I’ve done, so it’s been good. To win two matches and have that match tonight shows that I’m not a Futures player, and probably better than a Challenger player as well.
“It’s pretty easy for everyone to tell you: ‘You should be doing this, you could be doing that’. Until you do it, you don’t know you can. I’ve done it now in individual competition.”
While Evans’ results here have been stunning – three victories in the qualifying competition and wins over Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic in the main draw – it has been the quality of his performances that have given optimism for the future.
Even in defeat to Robredo, who is a former world No 5, Evans impressed hugely. After three hours and 13 minutes, the 23-year-old from Birmingham was clearly the stronger player physically, while his mental strength had been evident in the way he responded to a poor second set.
If Evans had converted one of the two points he had to win the fourth set – when he served at 5-4 and 40-15 he hit a double fault and a forehand long – he would have been the clear favourite to go through to a dream fourth-round meeting with Roger Federer.
Britain’s Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith, who has been coaching Evans here, said: “I am so proud of him and I think everyone who loves tennis, especially from a British point of view, will be very proud of Dan Evans, because you look at the effort that he’s put in, not just to come through qualies but the last two matches and then tonight’s match. He’s worked his socks off. He’s given everything and played with such high quality.”
Murray was also impressed. The world No 3 praised his fellow Briton’s “amazing fighting, great attitude” and noted how he had looked fresher than Robredo at the end. “Never thought that would happen,” Murray added on Twitter.
Evans was proud to have earned Murray’s praise. “He doesn’t have to do that,” Evans said. “I’ve definitely seen a change in his personality towards me. Especially after I came through qualies, I think he is giving me more respect now.”
Next up for Evans will be Britain’s Davis Cup World Group play-off away to Croatia, which begins in 11 days’ time on a clay court in Umag. Murray says he will play, which leaves Evans and James Ward contesting the No 2 singles spot. The absence of world No 15 Marin Cilic, who has not played since Wimbledon, means that Croatia’s leading singles player will be Ivan Dodig, the world No 38.
“I haven’t played a lot on clay,” Evans said. “Dodig will be No 1 and if I play I will be No 2. By the time I get home and start hitting again I will have had 10 days on the clay. I think I can beat Dodig. If I’m struggling on the clay and James is playing better then I will be happy to be a cheerleader.”
Beyond that, Evans is determined to continue building his world ranking. He is likely to be ranked around No 150 at the end of this tournament and has set his sights on being ranked high enough to enter the main draw at the Australian Open in January. He would probably need to climb another 50 places to do that, but he does not have many points to defend between now and the end of the year.