by Craig Vickers
A former coach of the new British men’s number one Dan Evans describes him as “so talented that he would often get bored”.
Evans dislodged Kyle Edmund as the British number one after a career littered with setbacks, most recently culminating in a year-long suspension from the sport in 2017 due to a drugs ban.
However, he has returned to reach 42nd in the world – his career high ranking stands at 41 – and Graeme Adams, who coached Evans between the age of 8 to 13 before he departed for the National Tennis Academy in the UK, says his talent was never in doubt.
He says: “He was so talented that he would quite easily get bored when we were doing drills, so you would have to keep him stimulated. He just loved competition.
“Even as a kid the talent was there, and you could see he was something different.
“He was the most talented kid I have ever coached. He had every shot in the book. He loved volleying and playing touch and those sorts of games, always playing it with other kids at the side of the court.”
Adams recalls a conversation he had with the youngster when he asked him what style of player he wanted to be. His response was immediate. “He replied ‘I want to be a serve and volley player’. And we went with it.”
That is evident in Evans’ game, where he compensates for his lack of height with delicate touches around the net. However, his talent appeared to be going to waste when he was suspended in 2017 after cocaine was discovered in his washbag.
Although Adams describes it as “stupid”, he is quick to note that it can be viewed as a positive.
He adds: “He’s done a few daft things and that’s obviously a stupid thing to do when you’re a professional athlete.
“However, I think in a funny sort of a way it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He’s now come back and done well to get back to exactly where he was. With the extra discipline and the fact he’s playing a good amount of tournaments, he’s really piling it on. He realises he has to knuckle down.”
The numerous setbacks have not, however, tamed the livewire inside the 29-year-old. His on-court demeanour is feisty and umpires often have their work cut out when assigned to the Brit’s matches. Those tendencies have continued since his youth.
Adams describes him as “a bit of devil” in his teenage years before adding: “All I did when he was occasionally misbehaving is make him follow me around. I would say to him: ‘C’mon Dan, you’re going to have to follow me around for the rest of the day’. Standing next to the boring coach all day. That happened to him at one tournament when he was getting into trouble off court.”
Yet he can now look out from the summit of British tennis. Adams may have played a part in his development, but the success is largely down to Evans.