With big names in the 2019 Delray Beach Open draw like John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro, Frances Tiafoe, and Nick Kyrgios, I don’t think anyone thought the finals would come down to qualifier Dan Evans and Radu Albot, who started the week ranked #82 in the world.
Less than a year ago, Dan Evans made his return to tennis after a one-year ban for testing positive for cocaine. Evans, who was viewed as polarizing even before the suspension, looks like he’s finally had his breakthrough on the ATP tour.
Evans came up just short in the finals losing to Moldova’s Radu Albot after having three match points in the third set. Evans, who came through qualifying, admitted after that he was tired after playing six previous matches earlier in the week. Evans went down an early break in the third set before a brief rain delay halted play.
Albot got tight when serving at 4-3 and Evans broke back to tie the match at 4-4 in the final set. Both players still found a way to play their best towards the end, but it was the Moldovan who got through in the end. Albot’s win was the first ATP title for anyone from Moldova. Evans said, “He played some good tennis right at the end when he needed it.”
This run at the Delray Beach Open from Dan Evans shows just how slim the margins are on the ATP tour. Evans had to come back from a set down in his first-round qualifying match against #178 ranked Dominik Koepfer of Germany. He then went on to defeat USA’s Donald Young to advance to the main draw.
Evans defeated defending champion Frances Tiafoe in the opening round of the main draw, coming back after Tiafoe served for the match at 6-5 in the second set and had a 30-0 lead. The Brit also defeated a top ten player in John Isner before coming up just short in the final.
This week’s run will bring Evans to about #105 in the world. Evans, who was once right outside the top 40, admitted that he’s risen through the rankings faster than he expected to after the suspension but still hasn’t gotten over the pain of having to miss an extended period of time in the prime of his career. Evans said, “I was 41 in the world and threw it away.”
It might be hard for Evans to come to grips with it now, but there’s a chance the suspension can end up being a blessing in disguise. There were plenty of matches where Evans wasn’t completely engaged in throughout his career, but having to sit out may have made Dan Evans realize that it’s not too late to turn his career around for the better.