Dan Evans gave a reminder of just what a talented player he is by pushing defending champion Roger Federer in the second round of the Australian Open.
The 28-year-old from Birmingham reached his career high two years ago by defeating Marin Cilic in Melbourne to make the fourth round before the self-inflicted exile of a cocaine ban left him having to start again.
He has worked his way back to 189 in the rankings in less than a year and should return quickly to the top 100 if he can maintain the form he showed here in a 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3) 6-3 defeat.
His four victories here in qualifying and the main draw will see him back up to around 160, while Federer can look forward to a 20th consecutive appearance in the third round.
The Swiss said: “I think he played very well. It was hard to pull away and that’s to his credit. I was happy to win the first set, that was big.
“It feels like playing a mirror a little bit. I maybe just have a little bit more size and a bit more on my serve and maybe that was the difference.”
After the criticism of Federer’s favourable scheduling in Melbourne by former French player Julien Benneteau in November that caused so much fuss, this was a rare day session match for the Swiss, who has not lost to a player ranked as low as Evans for nearly 20 years.
But the heat was not an issue, with conditions cool and cloudy, and there was even a brief delay for rain in the ninth game of the opening set.
This was a match for the purists, with Evans’ single-handed backhand and all-court game not unlike Federer’s, and the British player showed during the first set that he is a fine competitor, too.
He was not afraid to come to the net and earned his reward when he saved a set point at 5-6 and forced a tie-break.
Evans had never won more than four games in five previous sets against Federer but he very nearly finished this one off, and will feel he probably should have.
After the first six points all went against the serve, Evans drilled a forehand passing shot across a rattled Federer to open up a 5-3 lead only to miss two volleys that were tricky but makeable.
After receiving treatment for blisters on his feet, he then recovered from an early break to push the second set to another tie-break, saving two set points and then breaking Federer at 4-5 with a backhand passing shot of which the Swiss would have been proud.
One break in the fourth game of the third set proved enough for Federer, who moves through to a third-round clash with either Gael Monfils or Taylor Fritz.