- Dan Evans secured a hard-fought win over MacKenzie McDonald in first round
- He came back to beat American 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours, 21 minutes
- Evans will now face Japan’s world No 71 Yoshihito Nishioka at Australian Open
- A third round against Novak Djokovic could be the reward for the winner
Dan Evans came from two sets behind to beat MacKenzie McDonald at the Australian Open
Evans looks to the sky as he celebrates following his hard-fought victory in the first round
Evans will now meet Japan’s world No 71 Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round in Melbourne
McDonald in action during the opening round of the Australian Open in Melbourne
The American got off to the perfect start but Evans eventually asserted his authority
Exiled to a court on the outer limits of Melbourne Park, wearing kit he has bought himself in the absence of a clothing sponsor, Dan Evans was not about to get ideas above his station.
The computer says that he is the British No 1 but he thinks otherwise — even as he prepares for his second round at the Australian Open as a seed for the first time.
‘I go back to the hotel at night feeling exactly the same and I feel exactly the same on court,’ said Evans, who will face speedy Japanese baseliner Yoshihito Nishioka next.
‘We all know who the British No 1 is and it is Andy Murray. He is the best player even at the minute, when he is injured.’
Evans had just come back from two sets down to win for the first time in his career, beating American MacKenzie McDonald 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.
As a riposte to Tim Henman’s recent josh that he should watch his calorie intake, actions spoke louder than words, his eventual recovery taking three hours and 21 minutes.
Beyond the gentle ribbing about his bodily proportions, the vital statistics when it comes to Evans pertain more to his ranking, having proved he is in perfectly decent physical shape.
He arrived here 12 months ago listed at 189, but is now seeded and on the cusp of the top 30.
You do not rise like that if your gut is spilling out of the Uniqlo kit you bought for yourself until a new clothing sponsor is sorted, probably next month.
In 2019 at this event, Evans played Roger Federer and took him to two tiebreak sets, which proved a signpost to what he went on to achieve.
This time, if he can break down the extremely solid baseline game of Nishioka in round two, he is likely to meet another member of the feted trinity, Novak Djokovic.
Evans wisely refused to look ahead, particularly in light of two previous defeats against his next opponent.
It was not that Evans played well by his recent standards in seeing off the world No 132, on a court adjacent to the railway tracks that divide this venue from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
He looked like he was suffering from the burden of being Britain’s leading man in the absence of Murray, still trying to get fit enough to compete after his recent setbacks.
At the end, having recovered his flowing rhythm after two anxious sets, he looked at his support bench and tapped his stomach, later denying he was sending a message to Henman.
‘No it was just a bit of a joke to the guys in my corner. There was nothing in it,’ said Evans, who would not be having to discuss this issue were he wallowing in the relative obscurity of a year ago, when Murray’s potential retirement was all the talk.
Asked what evening meal he would be having, he responded: ‘What do want me to have? I will have schnitzel. I don’t know.
‘Whatever my girlfriend wants, really. I am not so picky on what I eat before. We will see.
‘I am in good shape, there is no question about that. I have strong legs and a good set of lungs.
‘Everyone can be in better shape — that is just normal. I am still trying to improve on and off the court. I can’t do anything about it now it’s the middle of the tournament so we will see.’
Evans, who had support from a British-dominated crowd, should not have too many problems securing a clothing sponsor, having terminated his deal with Japanese manufacturer Yoxoi at the end of last season.
Not that he is struggling for cash right now.
Already this month, thanks to his exploits in the ATP Cup and at the Adelaide International, he has earned a minimum of £265,000 in prize money.
Evans completed his comeback despite being broken twice in the deciding set, and could be grateful for getting off before the rain — desperately welcome in the more important context of Australia’s drought and fires — came hammering down.
Kyle Edmund was interrupted at 5-2 up against Dusan Lajovic while Jo Konta’s match was cancelled.
Under one of the three roofs, Federer opened with a straightforward 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Steve Johnson. There were no signs of ringrust in his first serious outing of the season.