Dan Evans talks to Shelley Carter about beating Novak Djokovic, life on the tennis tour and bringing on the next generation
British number one and local lad, Dan Evans is riding high battling with the best in the world as he prepares for the grass court season. More than just troubling the top seeds, the number 26 ranked tennis star looks right at home most notably getting the better of Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters. So what’s changed?
We last caught up with Dan in 2015 when he hadn’t been in such sparkling form as he recovered from a knee injury. It turns out, Dan says there’s been no epiphany, it’s the day-to-day hard work and consistency that pay off and translates to a match situation.
Of all the sports, tennis has probably been one of the least affected by lockdown restrictions getting back to playing competitively pretty quickly. Battle of the Brits organised by Jamie Murray in Roehampton which pitted two teams of top British talent against one another revealed a camaraderie among the Brits that we haven’t seen before – think Davis Cup Final and then some.
TACHE AND BANTER
There was plenty of good-humoured banter which naturally a moustachioed Evans was right in the thick of and the fierce competition showcased not only the talent, but the joy of tennis. Dan says: “The aim was to boost the game and inspire the next generation to play and I think it did that.” Sure enough. According to the LTA, between May and July last year, court bookings in parks and public spaces were up by 372 per cent on the previous year.
Dan’s not just British, he’s a proper proud Brummie who still trains at his boyhood club, Edgbaston Priory when he’s in the region and is sponsored by local fashion designer Luke Roper who provides his kit. It was actually squash that peaked Dan’s interest in sport initially playing with his dad aged just seven. But once he got to grips with a tennis racket, it was obvious that was his game.
Aged 10, Dan moved his training from Solihull to the top facilities at Edgbaston Priory which took his game up a notch. He says: “Priory’s a great club as are the people. Growing up if you knew sport, you knew Edgbaston Priory. It’s iconic. Whenever I’m back they let me use the courts. The last time was probably before the US Open.”
At 13, Dan moved to Loughborough to live with a host family while training at the LTA’s academy at Loughborough University. Of that time, he says: “I was not the best aged 14 or 15, in fact I was probably the worst. I was smaller than the others but I always thought I was pretty good and in the end I was the best.”
We chatted on the morning of Dan’s third round match against Alexander Zverev at the Madrid Open which he was really looking forward to. “It’s not often you get to play in the Magic Box.” Zverev won, but the margins were so tight it could easily have gone Dan’s way. Beating the best in the world is something we reckon Dan will have to get used to. He says he’ll never forget beating Djokovic and is particularly chuffed he was able to do it at the Masters.
It’s not all popping Champagne and patting yourself on the back mind you. He explains: “Obviously on court it’s physically and mentally tiring, but when you win a match like that there’s more to deal with off court. There’s more press to do, more attention, more messages, but you’re still in the tournament and have to focus.”
WIN OR LOSE
Dan’s not grumbling just illustrating it’s a newish scenario to deal with while keeping your head in the game. He says he’s always been decent at losing which sounded a bit odd at first, but he explains: “In a tournament there’s one winner and maybe 31 losers, so it’s essential to be good at it.” The Covid restrictions at tournaments haven’t affected Dan much, in fact he says because players and their teams are all in the same hotel, it’s had a bonding effect.
In terms of the next few months, Dan says he doesn’t really have expectations although he says he’d love to do well at Wimbledon and is looking forward to getting on the grass. There’s no rest in the calendar, so it’s pretty non-stop playing and travelling and Dan hasn’t seen his family since January, so coming home will be a highlight.
We’ve agonised over a snappy Evans alternative to Henman Hill and Murray Mount and we can’t think of one, so we’re getting behind #EvosArmy Are you with us?