Dan Evans: The current state of British tennis, his admiration of Andy Murray and Australian Open

British No 1 Dan Evans hopes the powers that be at the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) stop looking for a future Grand Slam champion and start concentrating on finding a group of players who are capable of competing inside the top 250 in the world.

Evans has previously spoken about working alongside Andy and Jamie Murray to help develop the next generation of players in Britain.

It came after Heather Watson expressed her fears about a lack of young talent coming through following a miserable French Open which saw no Brits make the second round at a Grand Slam, capping a disappointing year at the majors as a whole.

In Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu, Britain does have a couple of prospective teenagers who seem destined to make an impact in the sport.

But Evans, who reached a career-high ranking of 28 in March, has been scathing of the amount of money the LTA invests in trying to find the next Grand Slam champion. Instead, Evans feels the focus should be all about setting targets.

“For as long as I’ve been in tennis, there’s been scrutiny on the LTA which some if it is pretty unfair and some of it is just, but I think looking for a Grand Slam champion is definitely not the answer,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think once we start getting 10 or 15 players inside the top 250 then we can start talking about top 100 and then we can start talking about a Grand Slam champion.

“That’s where British tennis is at so you can read into that what you like, but there’s not enough people inside the top 250 in the world, there’s hardly any people playing Grand Slam qualifiers and for a Grand Slam nation that’s not good enough. And that’s on both sides (men and women), you know.”

Evans remarked on the disappointment felt following a French Open campaign which saw the worst performance by British singles players at a Grand Slam for seven years. He was part of a group of six who all lost in the first round.

“For the funding that we give out, that’s not good enough,” said Evans in reference to British interest at Roland Garros. “I think that’s totally fair. If you ask them (the LTA) if that’s good enough, if they don’t agree then we’ve got the wrong people.

“I think we’ve got some good people but I think we have some people (in the LTA) who are not so bothered in five years time if we’ve got players inside the top 100 or not. But it’s like that in every job, isn’t it?

“There’s people who do it for the love and obviously they get paid well and then there’s other people where motivation is the thing, but that’s everything and I think the powers that be need to see that. I think sometimes it might be a little easier to miss that and carry on.”

“We agree with Dan that we need more players in the top 250 and top 100 in the world and want to see more young players coming through. Anyone who doesn’t agree with these goals shouldn’t be working for us. Delivering this is exactly what our performance strategy launched in 2018 seeks to address. We are confident we have the right plan in place and we are constantly checking and challenging ourselves along the way. It is going to take time before we can see the results come through, as player development is a long process, but we are committed to developing a new generation of talent.”

An LTA spokesperson

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Evans also opened up about Andy Murray’s comeback following career-threatening hip injury and surgery. The two-time Wimbledon champion spent a lot of time at the National Tennis Centre during the Battle of the Brits tournament this summer, organised by his brother Jamie.

And British No 1 Evans is full of admiration for Murray’s persistence, despite criticism from Mats Wilander suggesting the 33-year-old should step aside for younger talent to be handed wildcards at Grand Slams.

“It’s admirable what he’s still trying to do, travelling across the world probably some weeks losing money to be out there so I think he’s a good example.”

Dan Evans on Andy Murray

Wilander’s comments came after Murray suffered the joint-heaviest Grand Slam defeat of his career against Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros – winning just six games.

“I don’t think he needs to be judged but he can only do as much as he can do. He’s working as hard as he can and that’s all you can ask of him,” said Evans. “I don’t think he needs to be judged on results. He’s got everything which he needs and he wants to get better at tennis which he is still striving to do.

“I think (he’s setting) a great example that it’s not about money, it’s not about what he’s won. It’s obviously just a love to be competing and playing tennis so I think it’s a good example to people out there.

“In a world in which we live in now, it’s all about money and it’s easy to say he has all the money now, but I think it’s admirable what he’s still trying to do, travelling across the world probably some weeks losing money to be out there. I think he’s a good example.”

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Evans, 30, is finding his true potential after a drugs ban in 2017 left him reeling. He has since turned things around and despite not being able to cap off his comeback with a maiden ATP tour title, he is still proud of reaching three semi-finals this year, including back-to-back tournaments in Antwerp and Vienna last month.

“I’ve had a good few years. Obviously last year I didn’t play so great in the majors but I played a relatively solid year which was a little interrupted,” he said. “We played what we could when we got back and it was a pretty good year. It stands me in good stead for the start of next year.

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to have a good year next year but I can only try as hard as I can and keep going forward hopefully.”

With uncertainly surrounding which tournaments will be scheduled in the lead-up to the Australian Open, Evans revealed he is stuck in limbo and unable to make any future plans.

Evans parted ways with coach Mark Hilton recently and hopes to touch base with Chris Johnstone once he learns more about which events will go ahead in January.

“I don’t really know because I don’t know the ins and outs of the situation as do no other tennis players. I don’t have a plan in place to be totally honest with you,” revealed Evans.

“I have Chris who’s in Australia so he’s waiting for me to arrive there when I can go and then the fitness trainer side of it I will decide on that depending on when I can leave – if to do the pre-season here or more over there if I can leave earlier.”

Evans will have to contend with a mandatory 14-day self-isolation in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then there’s the growing uncertainly around whether or not the ATP Cup will go ahead.

With the ASB Classic in Auckland cancelled, the 250 Adelaide International could see a stacked field ahead of the start of the Australian Open.

“At this rate I also have to look and see what tournaments are going to be on and will it be logistically and economically possible – whether it will be worth it because the prize money has gone right down,” Evans said.

“I’ve heard there’s going to be a big draw in the 250 event in the first week and I’ve got to be cooped up in a hotel for two weeks. There’s a lot to think about these days now so it’s tough to know without a plan.”

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