20 Feb Qualifier Evans Rolls into Quarterfinals
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – At only 5-9, Daniel Evans is dwarfed in height by the likes of 6-10 John Isner and 6-11 Reilly Opelka, both of whom are here this week for the ATP Tour’s Delray Beach Open. But the diminutive Brit suddenly has become somewhat of a giant in his own right the past few days.
Evans had to win two qualifying matches last weekend to earn a spot in the main singles draw, including a win against American Donald Young. He registered the biggest upset so far when he ousted No. 3 seed and defending Delray Beach champion Frances Tiafoe in his first-round match on Tuesday.
Evans continued his winning ways Wednesday afternoon when he defeated Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-0, 6-2 to advance to his first ATP Tour quarterfinal this year. So suffice it to say, the 28-year-old Evans, who is ranked No. 148 in the world, is on a roll this week.
“I don’t think he played his best, but a win is a win,” Evans said of the No. 98-ranked Harris. “It’s good to get through. But there’s still a lot of tennis left this week.”
Evans had worked his way up to a career-high world ranking of No. 41 in March 2017 before his career hit a major roadblock a few weeks later when he was issued a one-year ban by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for cocaine. Evans faced the music, admitting he made a monumental mistake and was very apologetic to his family, coach, sponsors and fans. The ban was lifted April 24 of last year.
“I was on a really good path when I got banned,” Evans said following his win Wednesday, reiterating it was a ‘stupid’ thing to do. “I was focused, really working hard, so it was a big roadblock. I’m just trying to stay focused and working hard is the big thing, putting in the hours, that’s what I’m trying to do. I hated myself for a little bit, but now I’m totally committed. I got some good people behind me and you need them in this game.”
Windy conditions have played havoc with some matches this week, but it hasn’t seemed to bother Evans, who thrives on his backhand slice.
“The wind actually suits my game quite well,” Evans said. He also believes he’s getting close to where his game was before he was forced to the sideline for a year.
“There’s things that I can improve obviously, but I’m close,” said Evans, who won 74 percent of his first-serve points and had only two double faults against Harris, who committed five double faults.
Evans next will face Andreas Seppi of Italy in the quarterfinals on Friday. Seppi, the No. 6 seed here, beat Aussie Jordan Thompson 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the first match of the afternoon session Wednesday. Seppi is ranked No. 52 in the world and reached the finals in Sydney last month. He turns 35 on Thursday, so stopping Evans’ streak to reach the semifinals here would be a nice birthday present.
Frenchman Adrian Mannarino also notched a spot in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, downing Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-2, 7-6(3).
“I felt like the match was turning a little bit (in the second set),” Mannarino said. “(Istomin) was serving well and he was going for the shots. I felt like he was playing better and better, so I didn’t want to go to a third set. . . . With the wind, you never play your best tennis. You just have to deal with it and play the best you can in these conditions. Move as quick as you can to adjust at the last moment. I was trying to be quick and it worked out.”