Dan Evans’ hopes of a first title since returning from a drugs ban came to nothing on Sunday as he was beaten 7-6(4), 7-5 by in-form Australian Alex de Minaur in the Nottingham Challenger Final.
Evans, who made his comeback in April after being banned for a year for testing positive for cocaine, will now head to his first ATP Tour event at Queen’s Club, for which he was given a wild card, since returning.
The 28-year-old Briton – who has suffered just four defeats in his 20 competitive matches since coming back onto the circuit and will see his world ranking rise from a lowly 530 – will play Adrian Mannarino in the first round at Queen’s. De Minaur, who will also rise up the rankings having broken into the top 100 on the back of his success at Surbiton last weekend, fought back from 4-2 down in the first set.
Some of his play was outstanding and Evans sportingly called out ‘too good’ when the 19-year-old’s sublime lob clinched the first set. Evans showed character in breaking back in the second set with de Minaur serving for the match at 5-4, but the Australian made no mistake when presented with a second opportunity to secure his first ATP Challenger title.
Whilst Evans has secured a wild card to Queen’s he is not optimistic of having the same good fortune with Wimbledon. However, with a wild card play-off due this Wednesday, he says he is prepared to play two matches in one day – should he reach the second round at Queen’s – to give himself a shot at playing in the Grand Slam event.
“My year doesn’t revolve around just trying to play Wimbledon. But it wouldn’t be my preference to miss the best slam there is,” he said. There was further delight for Australia and disappointment in equal measure for the British fans later with top seed Ashleigh Barty beating the fourth-seeded Briton Johanna Konta 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the women’s final.
Konta, who had beaten Donna Vekic in the semis to avenge her loss to the same opponent in the final last year, had several run-ins with the umpire and refused to shake her hand at the end, but she was content with her week’s work.
“It is a very good result for me this year,” she said. “It is a good feeling to be back in the last day of the tournament. “I haven’t had that for exactly a year. I am looking forward to doing this week in week out.”