If success in tennis is measured by performances in grand slam tournaments, then Dan Evans may have fallen a little short to this point in his career, with a fourth-round showing at the Australian Open in 2017 his best run at one of the four biggest events.
At Wimbledon he has yet to go beyond the third round in five previous visits but, as the No 22 seed, his own expectations have grown and on Tuesday the 31-year-old began his campaign with a 7-6 (4), 6-2, 7-5 victory against the veteran Spaniard Feliciano López.
“It was pretty efficient,” Evans said. “I feel I played solid tennis and was more controlled than previous matches on the grass. I had to be ready from the get-go and really focused and be sharp. I felt I was. It was always going to be a difficult match against Feli. I thought there’d probably be a tie-break or two in there. I was ready to be good in those moments. I did a good job and I’m happy to come through.”
Evans’s win followed those of Andy Murray, Liam Broady and Katie Boulter on day one and the encouraging performance of the youngster Jack Draper, who took the first set off the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, before going down in four sets.
Evans said he felt like British winners at Wimbledon tended to be overshadowed by those players who go down in glorious defeat, suggesting near-misses against big players sometimes make more headlines than they should.
“It’s a tough way to put it, but we enjoy putting up a valiant effort,” he said. [It’s] not celebrating it, but we put it right out there. You guys as well like to deliver the losses as pretty front-page sort of stuff. I just think British mentality is that at the minute. It can change.”
In the years when even a single British winner at Wimbledon was a rare occurrence, valiant losers were indeed celebrated; Andrew Castle taking Mats Wilander to five sets in 1986, or Barry Cowan forcing Pete Sampras to a decider in 2001 spring to mind.
The London Olympics of 2012 and the performance of British athletes in recent years have changed that mentality but Evans said he felt winners still needed to be celebrated more, at least in tennis.
“I don’t think we should be celebrating losses,” he said. “I mean, yesterday was a great experience for Jack Draper, but probably he doesn’t want to lose that match, yet it’s a great experience for him. Jack Draper, I’m sure, comes here thinking he can win a lot of matches.
“It could be maybe a bit more [in the] forefront on web pages. I’m not sure if there was too much about Liam Broady winning. There was a lot about Heather [Watson’s] heartache, stuff like that. I think we do celebrate a bit more the losses than we do the wins. That’s all I’m trying to say really.”
A few more wins for Evans might change his mind. The Briton will play Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in the next round and, should he get beyond that, a third-round meeting with Sebastian Korda could await.
On his Wimbledon debut, the 20-year-old Korda, the son of former Australian Open winner Petr Korda and the brother of golf’s newly crowned Women’s PGA Championship winner, Nelly Korda, took out the No 15 seed, Alex de Minaur, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) on Tuesday.
“It was super-inspiring,” Sebastian said. “I was up watching the last round with my dad and we were both super-excited and super-emotional.”
De Minaur won his first grass-court title in Eastbourne last weekend but found Korda too hot to handle, the American finishing things off in a tie-break, having let slip a 3-1 lead in the fourth set.
“He’s been having some incredible results, two semi-finals and then winning the title last week,” Korda said. “But it’s a very quick turnaround. I think my game is really confident on grass.”