NEW YORK (AP) — Daniel Evans’ tattoo was mocked by Laura Robson, so he questioned some of her hairstyle choices.
British tennis is all smiles these days. At the site of Andy Murray’s breakthrough last year, Evans notched the first big upset of this U.S. Open.
Ranked 179th, Evans stunned 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, in Monday’s first round. The two players are both 23, but their careers share little else in common.
Nishikori was already playing in his 17th major tournament, coming in with a 25-16 record that includes a run to the quarterfinals at the 2012 Australian Open. Evans was making his debut at the U.S. Open and had been 0-2 in Grand Slam matches, both coming at Wimbledon.
A year ago at this time, Evans was playing a minor-league Futures event back home. He believed he could reach the sport’s highest levels.
“But you don’t see a route,” he said. “It’s a pretty blocked path.”
He had been showing hints of a breakthrough in recent months. Evans was a late addition to the Great Britain Davis Cup team in April as the country tries to return to the top level of the competition. He wound up beating a much higher-ranked opponent in straight sets in the final match to clinch the squad’s comeback victory.
Evans was ranked 325th in the world at the time. He climbed 156 spots in just over four months.
“I knew I was a good player, but I just hadn’t put it all together,” Evans said. “I was pretty calm today. It wasn’t that much of a big deal what was happening on the court. I wasn’t nervous serving it out. I played another good match. I’ve played some good matches for the last five weeks. It was just like I really want to go far in the tournament, win a few more matches.”
Evans was playing well coming into U.S. Open qualifying, reaching the final at two straight minor-league Challenger events. But that’s a long way from the main draw at Flushing Meadows.
He had to rally from a set down in his final match of qualifying to make the field.
After all that, Evans wasn’t totally sure what day of the week it was when he took the court against Nishikori. But he was the one who felt more comfortable.
“He has no pressure,” Nishikori said. “He was playing a little aggressive, and I was kind of tight.”
Robson, the highest-ranked teenager in the women’s game, is seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam event. The 19-year-old got off to a shaky start Monday before beating Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5, 6-0.
Asked afterward if there was anything she didn’t like about Evans, Robson joked: “He’s got a Jesus tattoo. I mean, if you’ve ever spoken to him, he’s really not the most religious person. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Evans later sent this volley back: “I’m not sure on her hairstyle sometimes, but, hey.”
It’s easy to kid around after major wins.