By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Roger Federer  def. Dan Evans [Q] 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3
- Talks about time away from sport
- Aryna Sabalenka  def. Katie Boulter 6-3 6-4
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Dan Evans acquitted himself well against Roger Federer, before admitting he had been in a ‘bad place’ during drugs ban as both he and Katie Boulter exit Melbourne.
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Roger Federer  def. Dan Evans [Q] 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3
Facing Roger Federer for the second time at a Grand Slam and indeed a third overall if we count Hopman Cup, there were surprisingly few expectations on the Dan Evans. He was up against the current two-time champion who is hunting for a seventh overall title. After the somewhat farcical return to Slam competition in the Wimbledon pre-qualifying, he actually came through three rounds of qualifying and won a main draw opener before earning his shot against Federer.
Evans took the fight to him with the single break point of the set coming to Federer in the final game before a tie-break that saw the Swiss teetering on the brink of dropping the first set. Evans was two points away from that, before a couple of errors put Federer firmly back in the frame with a one-set lead.
Federer broke the Brit in the first game of the second set and by then Federer fans who always seem to find a way to materialise anywhere in the world must have thought it was home and dry, but Evans was playing the kind of fluid, lights-out tennis he is capable of.
He even had the temerity to raise a break point of his own a couple of games later, before saving two match points towards the end of the set and breaking back straight after. The second tie-break was a little more straight-forward though for the Swiss.
When all said and done, it was just one break that did for Evans, but there was a lot to take from this.
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‘I was in a bad place – pretty much depressed
He had started 2017 with his first ATP final in Sydney, he was at a career high, and he threw it all away after taking cocaine out of competition.
He only made his comeback last year, taking a wildcard for the Glasgow Challenger qualies, and the same for the Loughborough Challenger, in a bit to get matches under his belt. It was not always easy and his ready smart-mouth was in action as he was chided for effort as he struggled to regain his former fitness.
He told reporters: “It’s just taking it day by day really. I struggled over the summer to back up winning one match and then playing the next day, I got through a round and then I’d lose. In Stockton I played a good match, then played a woeful match against [Liam] Broady. A lot of that was happening. This week’s probably given me a lot of confidence that I can actually back it up like I used to actually do. Come back day after day.”
It is not the first time he has admitted that he finds it easier to get up for these kinds of matches than playing to stands with hardly any people in, on the Challenger tour.
He continued: “Right now, I have to do it in the tournaments where I’m expected to win. That’s the real test for me. I think I needed a good result in like a bigger tournament to really give me some confidence to go back to that and do some damage in those tournaments.
“I just think rather than thinking I’m better than them, but not really have any sort of form to say I am. Where qualifying, win a round, playing a good match today has given me a lot of confidence to go to the lower level and just step up and get the job done.”
This time last year he could not even bring himself to watch the Australian Open, as he opened up as to how hard life had been, after the ban was handed down.
He said: “However many months I had off were terrible. I was in a bad place and that’s just how it is. A lot went on and a lot has gone on. A lot of s**t basically. I had a good amount of people around me, telling me it wasn’t bad as I thought, and you come out of it the other side and hopefully now I can kick on and get back to where I was.
“F***ing pretty much depressed – [thinking would I] ever play again. It’s difficult times. I don’t know How I still end up having the people around me who were there. I was difficult to be around so obviously I owe them a lot. That’s obviously why you’ve got family and friends for and hopefully they enjoy this week as much as I did.”
Aryna Sabalenka  def. Katie Boulter 6-3 6-4
Katie Boulter followed Evans out of Melbourne at the hands of WTA rising Star Aryna Sabalenka. It is rare to see Boulter show frustration and she admitted that it had been more her own level of play than anything in particular Sabalenka was doing, despite some raucous support for the Brit.
Johanna Konta flies the flag in British singles alone on Thursday.
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