By Harry Trend
The so called ‘bad boy of tennis’ Dan Evans will play in the Aegon International Eastbourne at Devonshire Park in June as part of the ATP tour 250 series. Fellow British player Kyle Edmund will also star in the tournament.
Evans, who is currently 44th on the tennis world rankings, said, “I can’t wait to get back to playing on home soil and in front of the home support. It’s my favourite time of the year and I want to put on a good performance during the grass court season.”
The 26-year-old has travelled on a rough road in tennis so far, and the man who has previously said, “I’m too lazy to be the next Andy Murray”, has often failed to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Evans was a hot prospect as a teenager after a successful junior tennis career. At 13, he joined Loughborough Tennis Association’s academy at Loughborough University and was part of the British team who won the World Juniors in the Czech Republic in 2004. The British number three also reached the latter stages of multiple junior slams before turning pro in 2006.
It was after turning pro that controversy began to surround Evans. In 2010, the Lawn Tennis Association criticised his attitude and it was announced funds would be cut for Britain’s underperforming tennis players, including Evans. In the 2010 Davis Cup, the Birmingham born athlete lost against Lithuania’s Laurynas Grigelis and Ričardas Berankis, Berankis of which was ranked 239 places below Evans at the time.
However, in the Davis Cup two years later, Evans beat two higher ranked players in the singles to help Britain beat Slovakia. Nonetheless, that was where his 2012 peaked, because in April of that year, Evans lost against Olivier Rochus in a Davis Cup Group I tie against Belgium.
Evans returned to find that his coach, Julien Hoferlin, had been allocated to fellow British player Oliver Golding instead. In turn, the Lawn Tennis association stripped Evans of his funding. This meant he couldn’t afford to play tennis outside of Britain and Ireland.
Yet in 2013, things threatened to get even worse for Evans. There was a possibility he would have to quit tennis due to his parents struggling to financially support his career. He admitted that year he was still underperforming in an interview with the BBC because “I don’t train hard enough and don’t work hard enough day in and day out. I’m obviously pretty bad at my job.” Allegedly, Evans spent too much time in the pub and not enough on the court.
Despite this, 2013 was arguably the 26-year-olds most successful year. Evans got a last-minute call up to play in the Davis Cup against Russia. And it was ‘the bad boy of tennis’ who finally came good and won the decider against Evgeni Donskoy in straight sets as Great Britain triumphed 3-2.
That same year, Evans recorded his most notable victory to date in the US Open, beating 11th seed Kei Nishikori in the first round. The world number 44 would eventually go on to lose to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round. Nevertheless, Evans won $93,000 of prize money, nearly half of his career earnings up to that point.
In keeping with his up and down stint on the court, Evans hit a career low a year later. After losing in the first round of Wimbledon in 2014, Julien Hoferlin, who had returned to coach him the year before, gave up on Evans for the last time. Hoferlin told journalists, “He (Evans) has the potential to make himself a top-60 player, but he makes no sacrifices for his sport. He doesn’t understand that tennis has to be his priority. For him, it’s just a brief interlude in his life.” Soon after the Birmingham born athlete missed three months of tennis with a knee injury as his ranking dropped to 772nd in May 2014.
Since then, Evans’ career has followed an upward curve. He was surprisingly recalled to the Great British squad for the Davis Cup in 2015. Great Britain won the tournament although Evans only played once in a semi-final defeat to Bernard Tomic.
In 2016, he reached the main draw of the Australian Open for the first time in his career. Evans lost to Feliciano López, but six months later he achieved another career first. Due to his ranking, the-26-year-old could enter Wimbledon without a wild card invitation.
The British number three fought off stiff competition from Jan-Lennard Struff and Alexandr Dolgopolov to face seven-time winner Roger Federer on Centre Court. Although Evans lost in straight sets, he was in the public eye once again, but this time for the right reasons.
He said of his match-up with Federer, “It’s inspiration for me that I got a chance to play him. I want that again, to play other good players on those courts.”
Evans came close to beating eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the 2016 US Open, and has since continued that good form into 2017.
Earlier this year, he reached the ATP tour final only to lose to Giles Muller. Then last month Evans reached a career high ranking of 41st. Some suggest his new nickname should be, ‘the reformed bad boy of tennis.’
Early bird seats are still available for the Aegon International Eastbourne at Devonshire Park. The tournament runs from the 23rd June to the 1st of July.