On Tuesday, at the National Tennis Centre in south-west London, Andy Murray and Dan Evans traded crosscourt backhands with single-minded focus. This is not unusual; they must have trained together hundreds of times over the last decade. But the dynamic has changed. Where Evans used to be the wayward young understudy, he is now the British No1. Standing only 5ft 9in tall, and lacking any one trademark shot that can strike fear into his opponents, Evans appears child-like alongside tennis’s dominant strain of six-and-a-half-foot giants. And yet he keeps carving people up with his slice, his touch and his guile. He has taken eight top-20 scalps this year – a tally exceeded only by world No1 Novak Djokovic and the two finalists at the O2 Arena last weekend: Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev. What is the key to his late-blooming career? Evans, who is 30, cites the 2017 season that he spent in a kind of self-isolation. The exile stemmed from his recreational use of cocaine, and yet there was a curious symmetry with the miseries of 2020. When the pandemic hit, and everyone found themselves slumped in front of daytime TV, he was already an expert at killing time. “Having that year off was not easy,” Evans told The Telegraph in a Zoom interview. “But I think it’s given me a lot of perspective on what I wanted to do. When I was first on the tour, I took it for granted. I never looked at how we are treated and thought ‘Jeez, this is so good.’ Back then, I probably left a few things to chance and relied on a few other people rather than taking charge of it myself. Even when I got to 40 in the world [shortly before his conviction], I was probably not so focused. “All that changed when I got back from my ban,” Evans added. “Now I am locked in and I want to make sure I stay there. The situation with Hilts [Mark Hilton, the experienced coach whom Evans broke up with last month] would say that is the case. I want to be professional about it and crack on rather than just stick with a situation that isn’t what I wanted.”
Australian Open organisers said on Friday that nothing regarding the quarantine for players arriving in the country for the Grand Slam had been decided yet despite a report in local media that competitors would be able to train while in self-isolation. The Age newspaper reported that the men's governing body ATP has told the players that they would be allowed to train during their 14-day quarantine period ahead of the Australian Open. A Tennis Australia spokesperson told Reuters that the organisers are still waiting for approvals from the Victoria state government for all details on the year's first Grand Slam, including those relating to practice during quarantine.
The Australian Open has “zero chance” of going ahead if the Victorian government insists on the hardest of quarantines for all incoming tennis players. That was the message from Australian No 2 John Millman, who gave an extended interview to the Tennis Podcast – a partner of Telegraph Sport – about his own 14-day internment in a Sydney hotel. Australian media offered an update overnight that suggested a fortnight’s delay for the tournament, moving back from its original start date of Jan 18 to Feb 1, though nothing has yet been officially confirmed. The real issue, though, is what the players will be able to do in the first two weeks after they arrive. Tennis Australia hope that Victorian premier Daniel Andrews will let them train at certain bio-seucre tennis centres. On this question, the whole enterprise rests. “[Tennis Australia chief executive] Craig Tiley and the team do an incredible job,” said Millman, who is the world No 38 and Australian No 2. “But this has been so challenging for them, the goalposts have been moved so many times by the local health authorities.