Evans was unranked when he returned from this latest suspension in April 2018 and was forced to start at the lower levels of professional tennis. With no points to defend, and little compassion from his fellow competitors, Evans began entering Challengers, tennis’s version of the minor leagues. He often had to play three matches just to get into the tournament’s main draw. But in August he won a Challenger in Vancouver, British Columbia, and reached the final of another in France in February.
At the ATP Tour level, he was given a wild card to play the event at Queen’s Club in London in June and lost his first match. He tried to qualify for Wimbledon last year, reaching the second round. He qualified for the main draw of this year’s Australian Open and lost to Roger Federer in the second round. His breakthrough at Delray Beach included wins over No. 9 John Isner and No. 35 Frances Tiafoe.
“In retrospect, his journey has been incredibly quick for someone with no ranking,” said David Felgate, Tim Henman’s longtime coach, who began working with Evans just after his return. “Dan doesn’t expect anything from anyone; he doesn’t expect sympathy. He knows what he did to himself. But it does give him a different perspective and may prolong his career. When you realized you missed a year, you want to make up for it. You want this career to go on for a long time because you know what not playing felt like.”
At 5-foot-9, Evans lacks the serving power of tennis’s taller players like del Potro, who is 6-6. But Evans is scrappy off the ground, particularly with his running forehand pass down the line. He also possesses an effective one-handed slice backhand. And he loves to volley, just as his countryman Henman did.
As far as he has come over the last year, he knows he has still got a long way to go.
“Listen, that episode in my life of being banned, it’s over,” Evans said. “Everyone forgave me as soon as I held my hands up and accepted the blame. But it’s not easy to be happy with yourself day in and day out when the fact is, I was No. 41 in the world and I threw it all away.”
He added: “But to say that I’ve grown, that would be justifying it. There’s no sort of philosophical looking back on it. It was the worst thing ever. Now, I’m just back trying to win tennis matches.”