As Dan Evans’s lucrative run in Australia came to an end, the British No 1 told reporters that he does not plan to play in the Olympics this year. “There’s some [other] good tournaments on at that point,” said Evans, after his second-round loss to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Evans’s decision means that there could potentially be no male Britons participating in the singles event in Tokyo. At the moment, neither Cameron Norrie nor Kyle Edmund could be confident of winning a place on ranking. Depending on what happens between now and the cut-off date, which coincides with the end of the French Open in early June, this might leave only world No 13 Johanna Konta as a direct entry.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray – who would no doubt love to defend the Olympic gold medals he won in London and Rio – is still languishing under a fitness cloud because of his ongoing pelvic bone-bruise.
Murray can surely expect to be offered a wild card, should his ranking – which now stands at No 128 – remain too low for the 64-man draw. But will he be able to play? If this injury is connected to the metal implant in his hip, it could potentially force him back into doubles-only competition, or even out of the game.
Olympic tennis offers no rankings points or prize money, which makes it something of a luxury for many players. The alternative for the men is to stay on the ATP tour and enter the two American events that run at around that time: Atlanta, which starts on July 27, and Washington on August 2. The chances are that numerous big names will be absent, making these tournaments an appealing option for the rest.
“I think everyone should represent their country for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and ATP Cup,” said Evans. “But the Olympics is an individual event and I’m not sure I’ll be going to Japan. First and foremost I have to take care of myself and my life rather than taking time out.”
In Melbourne on Wednesday, Evans suffered a disappointing 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 defeat in violently windy conditions that saw gusts of over 50mph rampaging across Melbourne Park. It was a day for deft players with excellent footwork. And that would be a good description of Nishioka.
The stands overlooking this match had a canvas roof, which sang – or, more accurately, screamed – like a jet engine when the wind caught it from a certain angle. On the court, Evans was full of angst and self-admonishment as he failed to break Nishioka’s underpowered serve at any stage.
“He played good,” said Evans afterwards. “I knew it would be difficult. In all honesty I didn’t want him to win when he was playing against [Laslo] Djere [in the first round]. When it was windy like that I knew exactly how he would play and I couldn’t break him. I didn’t play great, but all credit to him, he played pretty good.
“Some days you look forward to matches and I didn’t look forward to it,” added Evans. “I just find him overly awkward. All credit to him, he made it literally as awkward as possible. I had two big chances in the third and I didn’t take them. He took his. And I thought he returned pretty good considering the conditions.”
Asked how he rated his first few weeks of the season, Evans replied: “They were great. This tournament has been good as well. To start the year with such drama with my matches at the ATP Cup [in Sydney], I can only look back and be happy. I’ve got lot of points and [made] good moves up the rankings.” He has also earned £265,000 in prize money.
By beating Mackenzie McDonald in Monday’s first-round match, Evans matched his second-round exit here last year. He is thus likely to remain at No 32 in the world or thereabouts. His next tournament is expected to be in Rotterdam in the second week of February.