Dan Evans finally comes of age


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The weekend saw an incredible transformation in the career of Great Britain's Dan Evans: from much-maligned underperformer to lauded hero.

There was also a remarkable role-reversal between James Ward and Evans. Ward was the toast of West London as he thrived at the Queen's Club last summer, while Evans continued to struggle; the change in fortunes was stark in the tie with Slovakia.

A perusal of Simon Reed's blog early last week shows how unlikely and improbable Evans's exploits were. The fact was, the world number 273 was not expected to produce anything in the way of resistance to Slovakia's higher-ranked duo.

Evans first defeated the much-fancied and prodigiously talented Lukas Lacko 6-3 7-5 7-5 on Friday in what was considered a cherished but fleeting burst of inspiration.

But the Birmingham-born player confounded his many doubters with a quite brilliant victory over Martin Klizan, a man ranked a full 156 places above him.

This was no pressure-off assault from Evans, but a brave and nerve-jangling five-setter in what proved to be the decisive fifth and final rubber.

Evans eventually held his composure to prevail 6-1 6-1 4-6 3-6 6-3 in what could go down as a career-transforming win - to say it was a gutsy showing would be an unforgivable understatement.

For sheer surprise value, Evans's double against Slovakia will prove to be unique in the context of the modern history of the British team.

Ward could not even bear to confront familiar interviewers as he hung his head in shame after his second defeat in the tie to pile all the pressure back on his understudy - but he needn't have worried.

Without Andy Murray — busy training with Ivan Lendl in Miami — Britain found themselves relying on a 21-year-old who has never even won a match on the ATP tour for the second time in three days.

Make no mistake, this Slovak side had real pedigree: they have one player ranked 65th in Lacko, a strong doubles pairing, and an excellent Davis Cup history, including one final appearance in 2004.

Twice previously Evans had headed in to contest the final rubber of a Davis Cup tie with the match in the balance at two points apiece, but both times - against Poland and Lithuania - he fell well short.

Quite astonishingly given his performance at the Braehead Arena, Evans is currently ranked Britain's fifth-best player behind Murray, Ward, James Baker and Josh Goodall.

Slovak team captain Miloslav Mecir was among the stunned onlookers forced to reflect on a tie in which his side - as strong favourites - were left shell-shocked in Evans's wake.

"He has a big chance to get into the top 100," Mecir said after watching both his established singles players comprehensively outplayed for long periods of their matches.

The LTA briefly withdrew Evans's funding in 2008 after he went clubbing before he was due to play a boys' singles match at Wimbledon, but this is a man who has clearly changed his approach to the game on and off the court.

Evans's form has improved since Julien Hoferlin became his coach in December, and esteemed British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith - whose burgeoning reputation makes him increasingly hot property - believes the player's future is very much in his own hands.

"It is up to him where he goes from here," Smith said courtside after Evans was held aloft by his team-mates.

The victory, Smith's fifth in a row since taking over the captaincy from John Lloyd two years ago, means Britain will play Belgium at Braehead in April for a place in the World Group play-offs.

The sight of Evans being given the bumps from his disbelieving team-mates in front of an ecstatic home crowd will live long in the memory, but where can the Brit go from here?


TWEET OF THE WEEK: YESSSSS!! What a win,what a weekend Dan Evans u little star!! Outstanding! well done all GB team,crowd and thank you... #StirlingBarmyArmy (GB doubles star Ross Hutchins)

STAT OF THE WEEK: Austria celebrated a berth in the last eight of the Davis Cup for the first time in 17 years after Jurgen Melzer secured victory over Russia in Wiener Neustadt.

SHOT OF THE WEEK: And here they are - the Braehead Barmy Army...

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