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Lawn Tennis: Evans must make a huge leap to join big league, says Draper.

Byline: By Brian Dick

Roger Draper, the man who signs the cheques, has challenged Birmingham's Dan Evans to improve his ranking by 400 places by the end of the year if he is to make a quick step up into the men's game.

The 18-year-old was knocked out in the third round of the boys' singles at Wimbledon yesterday and will take a few weeks off before deciding whether to play the hard court season in America later in the summer.

He is still involved in the doubles with partner Dan Smethurst but it was a first ever junior singles grand slam title on which he had set his heart before being beaten by Australian Dane Propoggia in straight sets.

The Hall Green teenager endured a rain-affected match and was forced off court twice by the weather but in total playing time lasted just one hour and ten minutes for a 7-6, 6-4 loss.

He was watched by Draper, the Lawn Tennis Association's chief executive, who like many is impressed by the youngster's natural ability, including mulish first serve and real composure at the net, but says he must now turn that promise into rankings points.

"He has got outstanding talent and has got an interesting few years ahead as he makes the transition from the junior to the senior game," Draper said. "He is ranked in the 900s now and the challenge is getting those points to improve his senior ranking. He has got to be focused on the top 500 by the end of the year or the beginning of next year to give himself a shot at the top 350 or 300.

"He has got a lot of work to do on and off the court.

"The men's game is a very physical and brutal environment to develop in, you only have to have a look at what Andy Murray has had to do in the last few months and the game is moving forward all the time."

Evans's first experience of the ATP tour came last month at Queen's Club when he was handed a wild card to play former Wimbledon semi finalist Xavier Malisse in the first round.

What followed was a 6-1, 6-1 defeat that drew criticism in some quarters.

The Roehampton-based player looked set to make some form of amends this week and after coming through his first-round match in three sets against No 12 seed Peerakit Siributwong, of Thailand, he took a further step on Tuesday when he came from a break down in the deciding set to beat Guillaume Rufin.

He had to come from behind in the first set as well yesterday. When rain first took them off Propoggia was due to serve for the opening set only for Evans to convert the last of his four break points to level the match.

He was 4-1 up in the tie-break but as the Englishman's serve faltered he double-faulted on set point to gift his opponent a crucial lead.

That seemed to affect Evans and Propoggia scooted into a 3-0 lead when rain struck again. Once more Evans returned the more positive and broke back to level but at 4-5 and, serving to stay in the championship, s Propoggia blasted a superb backhand down the line to produce two match points. He didn't have to play another shot as Evans's eighth double ended the match.

"I didn't play well service-wise," Evans said. "At the start of the match I struggled to focus a little bit. There was a lot of movement around the court but I got into it until he just played the tie-break better than me.

"I am disappointed but I can't expect any more than what happened, if you are not at your best in matches like this - that's what happens."

CAPTION(S):

Outstanding - Birmingham's Dan Evans
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 3, 2008
Words:639
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