Exciting times ahead for Dan Evans; can Johanna Konta rediscover her form?
By Liam Grace
Last Updated: 14/01/20 5:09pm
Johanna Konta and Dan Evans carry British hopes at this year’s Australian Open
Dan Evans and Johanna Konta carry British hopes at this year’s Australian Open. A deep run is a realistic hope for Evans, but can Konta rediscover her form?
Evans hit rock bottom three years ago when he was hit by a 12-month drugs ban, but following a remarkable turnaround, he heads to Melbourne in fine form.
He was the linchpin behind Great Britain’s success at the Davis Cup and ATP Cup and he celebrated reaching a career-high world ranking of No 33 at the Adelaide International this week – a year ago he was ranked No 192. He has deservedly earned his first-ever Grand Slam seeding in Australia.
His recent fortune is a million miles away from the low point of testing positive for cocaine in April 2017. He was forced off the professional circuit for a whole year and faced a lot of criticism both on and off the court.
But the man once dubbed ‘the bad boy of British tennis’ has been able to think and reassess his career goals. He has put those setbacks behind him and is now rightly being praised for his world-class performances.
His recent performances have led to ‘Evo’ being labelled as one of the most exciting players on the ATP Tour.
His stunning victory against Australian star Alex de Minaur at the ATP Cup was simply sensational. Evans was able to showcase his technical and physical skills, with team captain Tim Henman particularly impressed.
With a bit more maturity, I think there are exciting times ahead for Dan.
“If he plays like that more often, he could be knocking on the door of top 20,” Henman told reporters. “He’s doing a lot of good things. It’s something that he and I have talked about. His variation to use the slice, the change of pace, hit the backhand down the line to open up the forehand to get forward, serving and volleying.
“He’s got options in his game and it’s not always easy to choose the right ones, (but) that level of tennis was phenomenal. To reach the standard is the easy bit, playing in this environment on an indoor court. It’s harder when you’re at a lesser event and it’s windy. That’s when you’ve got to deliver.
“We know the level is incredibly high. He’s got to keep building on that. It’s a process day in, day out. His tennis skills, his physical skills are there, it’s a challenge mentally. Now, with a bit more maturity, I think there are exciting times ahead for Dan.”
Evans will be undoubtedly buoyed by the success of other British men at the Australian Open in the last decade. It was ten years ago that Andy Murray reached the final, before Kyle Edmund launched an unlikely semi-final run in 2018. There’s no reason why Evans cannot produce a run into the second week at the opening Slam of the year.
Novak Djokovic has said that the upcoming tournament is wide open, and with his seeding, Evans should find it slightly easier than last year – when he was beaten by Roger Federer in the second round – who he pushed to two tie-break sets before losing out.
After returning from the brink in April 2018, Evans will certainly feel that anything is possible this time around, with the new decade offering a new chapter in his life. Speaking to the ATP Tour website before the ATP Cup, Evans admitted he is currently playing with newfound confidence.
“There will always be nerves playing in big matches, but over the past year I’ve played in a lot of ATP tournaments and it’s given me confidence,” he said. “You have to be confident when you go out on the court, otherwise you give your opponent and edge.”
British fans will be hoping the 29-year-old from Solihull can continue his upward trajectory in Melbourne.
For Konta, the British No 1 still holds hope of reaching the first Grand Slam final of her career, but firstly she must address her rather alarming current form.
Ranked No 13 in the world, Konta enjoyed her best season at the majors last year by reaching the final four at Roland Garros before quarter-final runs at Wimbledon and the US Open, despite struggling with a knee injury on and off, which appears to be affecting her now.
The 28-year-old pulled out of the Adelaide International as a precautionary measure but posted a picture of herself on Twitter warming up for the Australian Open, captioned ‘Good vibes’.
Konta thrives on the hard courts with all three of her WTA titles coming on the surface, although she has not progressed beyond the second round in Melbourne for the last two years, and will be looking to repeat her 2016 success where she progressed to the Australian Open semi-finals.
“I’m definitely really pleased (with my 2019 season) especially in the last three Slams where I went really deep,” Konta told inews last month.
“That’s a massive goal of mine – to continue to do that and to go even further consistently. I’m enjoying the people I’m working with and I’m enjoying the tennis I’m playing.”
Konta has been working with new coach Dimitri Zavialoff for just over a year now, and hopefully with her knee issues under control, she can produce the good and do something special in Melbourne.
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