US Open 2013: Dan Evans can have a bright future
Dan Evans never suffered from a lack of confidence, but over the past six months he has finally provided concrete evidence that he has a bright future.
In the aftermath of his US Open third-round defeat by Tommy Robredo here in New York, our conversation turned to Great Britain's Davis Cup tie in Croatia this month. "It would be a bold captain not to pick me," he said.
Leon Smith will make that decision, and will also sit down with Evans to plan a schedule for the rest of the season.
The 23-year-old wants to be able to bypass qualifying for January's Australian Open, and to be sure of doing that he will need to get his ranking inside the top 100.
Leon Smith on Dan Evans
"He's got a taste for this now and I really get the sense from him that it's not going to end here. He's got a taste for what it's like to play on big courts.
"He's had a lot of good wins against good players. From now on he'll believe that he should be playing regularly at places like this."
He is projected to rise inside the world's top 150 (from a ranking of 367 in March) when the next list is published at the conclusion of the US Open and, with very few points to defend over the coming months, he will have plenty of opportunity.
The target now will be the top-tier events on the Challenger Tour, which could see him spending the British autumn in places like Tashkent, Mendoza, Montevideo and Bogota.
There is also a hope that he could be offered a wildcard into one of the smaller events on the ATP tour: Stockholm, Moscow and Vienna all stage tournaments in the same week in the middle of October, and a couple of wins there would contribute meaningful ranking points.
We always knew he had the talent, and past Davis Cup performances suggested he also had the temperament to cut it at the highest level.
What had been conspicuously lacking was the commitment to live his life like a professional tennis player. The work he has put in with the LTA's fitness trainer Steve Kotze, and his willingness to commit to what has turned out to be a six-week tour of North America, suggest he also now has the required resolve.
The support from the LTA is crucial. Evans does not yet have a permanent coach, but Kotze's presence on this trip has been invaluable and Smith, who is also the LTA's head of men's tennis, has acted as coach, mentor and tactician.
He has long been a frustrated admirer of Evans, and made the bold call to select him for the Davis Cup tie against Russia in April. Evans won the deciding rubber in some style, and Smith's frustration is melting away.
Who is Dan Evans?
- Born: 23 May 1990
- Current singles ranking: 179
- Career singles high: 169
- Career earnings before US Open: £130,000
- Has reached five Challenger Tour and Futures finals this year, winning two
- 2013 was his first time in main US Open draw
He told BBC Sport: "Someone like Dan - and you find this with those with a lot more potential - once they dip their feet into the higher level events and they get an understanding that they could be earning great money at great tournaments every week, and actually have the ability to beat this level of players on the tour, they'll stay there, and that's what Dan has done."
Fellow Briton Andy Murray, the US Open and Wimbledon champion, has also noticed a distinct change in attitude, and tweeted during the fourth set of the Robredo match that Evans should be so proud of his performances.
Murray's support, and the insight he can provide on virtually every player in the top 100, will be invaluable to Evans, who is aware of Murray warming to his cause.
"He [Murray] likes to work very hard, and does everything to the letter of the law," said Evans. "That's what I'm trying to do and he respects me a little bit more now."
Evans also has an agent to help press his case. Along with the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Jerzy Janowicz and golfer Phil Mickelson, he is now on the books of Lagardere Unlimited.
The company's Stuart Duguid invited Evans to an exploratory meeting on the eve of his first-round match against Kei Nishikori, and the qualifier was very happy to shake hands on a deal there and then.
With the assistance of the LTA, Duguid will hope to persuade one or two tournament directors around the world that Evans is worth a place in their draw. He does not consider the investment to be a gamble.
"We only have a limited amount of resources and time to spend on these guys," he told BBC Sport. "We're definitely happy to do that for Dan as we think he's going to be a top player.
"Our company has strategically thought, 'Let's see these guys coming through at 22 or 23 that have been ignored in the past'.
"Janowicz is another example of a guy like that who was playing Futures in Glasgow about 18 months ago and was a Wimbledon semi-finalist this year - so it can happen, and I think Dan is right out of that mould as well."
And remember, Evans is only 23. More than half of the players in the world's top 50 are 28 or older.