April 2018. Any person enters to consult the ATP ranking and cannot find a name, that of Dan Evans. Separated from the circuit after testing positive for cocaine in an anti-doping control that came to light in the summer of 2017, the British hit bottom just one year later, when the sanction took him to the last point he had in his possession. “I made a mistake and I will accept the consequences,” he confessed after the suspension became official. And he did, although nobody expected to see him again at the top of the classification. At least, they didn’t expect me to do it that fast. Taking advantage of the cancellation of tournaments due to the coronavirus, the website of the LTA He investigates the secrets of the Birmingham tennis player, pointing out the reasons that led him in record time to the best moment of his career.
Before all this, Evans was already a different but limited player. The classic profile with talent to spare to stay in the top 50 but with little space to shine. Remarkable and varied service, patient and mordant cut back, in addition to a clear availability to upload and close on the net. Those were the letters of the English tennis player, designed to dominate tours thirty years ago and to be a rare bird today. Despite this, we always thought that Daniel –who would later change his name to Dan– had wood to give more than a scare, even to find that much-desired regularity that would lead him to dress upside down. This mission, unthinkable after the sanction, today seems the penultimate step of a journey that still has phases left. And it is that Evans still has room to improve what he already does very well, although we do not know if it will be this year. And what is it that does so well? What was the secret to ascend 120 positions in just one season?
The first, its ability to handle encounters where pressure was the protagonist, that is, parties that went to definitive set. Throughout 2019 we could see an Evans stronger than normal in those last rounds, but also at the beginning of this 2020. In this way, he could knock down, for example, Alex De Miñaur in the last ATP Cup. The British occupies the fourth place in the table of tennis players with the best percentage in this situation (70.6%), above important names in the dressing room such as Rafa Nadal, Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas. Another facet where the UK player shone was in the break points against, where in the last twelve months he saved 61.6% of options against his rivals. In that point statistics under pressure, Daniel only has nineteen men above with better numbers.
Third, Evans also set a trend from the rest, demonstrating that to be on top is not only worth being a good server. In 2018, for example, he was the best tennis player in statistics, so his improvement comes from afar. In the last twelve months things have not changed much, although repeating the lead was difficult. The Briton ranked eleventh on the list of points won by the rest with the opponent’s first serve, in addition to winning 25% of the games he played in the rest, one in four! This season alone, with all five tournaments played, Birmingham’s took 58.3% of games to the rest. To put it in perspective: Alexander Zverev, number 7 in the world, signed 27’3% on that same statistic.
These are the numbers that show us why Dan Evans is currently knocking on the doors of the top20 (Today it is Nº28), a niche where players who have already fallen into the clutches of our protagonist live. With these weapons we have seen this course defeating Goffin, De Miñaur, Khachanov, Fognini or Rublev. Almost nothing. Quarterfinals in Adelaide, quarterfinals in Rotterdam and semifinals in Dubai. The good image of English has long ceased to be a coincidence. Who was going to say it? Some will say that he learned the lesson from what happened in the past, others will say that approaching thirty made him mature. What difference does it make. The important thing and the beautiful thing is that we have before us an athlete in a sweet moment who promises to write his best pages in the future. Now all that remains is for the future to separate the coronavirus.