Dan Evans will become the British number one for the first time on Monday and he thinks his world ranking of 43 “can get a lot higher”.
Evans, 29, takes over from Kyle Edmund, 18 months after being unranked as he returned from a drugs ban.
The Lawn Tennis Association says 13 men, including Andy Murray and Tim Henman, have been British number one since rankings were introduced in 1973.
“It’s a privilege to be part of those sort of conversations,” said Evans.
In April 2018, Evans returned to the sport from a one-year ban after testing positive for cocaine, climbing back to the verge of the world’s top 100 by reaching the second ATP final of his career in February.
After being denied a first title in an agonising defeat by Moldovan Radu Albot at the Delray Beach Open in February, he continued to climb the rankings and reached the third round of both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.
That form, coupled with Murray’s injury problems and Edmund’s recent struggles, has seen him rise to become the country’s top male player.
“I don’t look at myself as British number one. I think Andy is British number one, and then there’s me, Cameron [Norrie] and Kyle [Edmund] behind him,” Evans told BBC Sport.
“But obviously it’s great. It means I’m playing good tennis, and I’ve had a good year.”
Evans’ career path resembles the chart of a particularly volatile stock market.
In 2013, he reached the third round of the US Open as a qualifier, and broke into the top 200 for the first time. But less than two years later, he had slumped to 772 in the world.
“I let a lot of people down,” he would later admit.
And then having reached a career best 41 in the world, as well as the fourth round of the 2017 Australian Open, Evans tested positive for cocaine. When he returned to the tour in April 2018 he was unranked, but extra motivated.
“When I wasn’t playing I didn’t feel part of what I had felt part of for a long time,” Evans added.
“Rightly or wrongly, you have resentment. It was my own fault – but you resent what you are seeing [others doing].”
He played a lot of golf during his 12-month ban, and left his tennis gear at his parents’ house so he did not have to look at it.
“There were some terrible moments,” he said in April 2018. “I was heartbroken not to be playing tennis.
“There isn’t that much you can do in the day when other people are working. I was living in Cheltenham, away from anybody else, so I was just on my own until 5.30pm or 6pm.”
But now he is the British number one, and just two places shy of his best world ranking.
“I don’t think I’m finished at where I am,” he said. “I think I can get a lot higher.
“I want to be in the later rounds of the Grand Slams, and I always say I think anything can happen once you reach the quarter-finals.
“My goal is to play until my mid-thirties and see where I’m at. If my level is still good enough to win matches week in, week out, I’ll carry on playing.”
|Dan Evans factfile
||23 May 1990, Birmingham
|Best Grand Slam performances
||Australian Open: 4R (2017); French Open: 1R (2017, 2019); Wimbledon: 3R (2016, 2019); US Open: 3R (2013, 2016, 2019)
|ATP Tour titles
|ATP Tour finals
||2 (Sydney 2017, Delray Beach 2019)
|Career prize money
|2019 prize money
|Highest world ranking
||41 – March 2017
Evans’ first match as British number one will be against Australian Bernard Tomic – a player once ranked 17th in the world but hampered by discipline problems – at the Stockholm Open, which starts on Monday.
Evans will then play at the Swiss Indoors tournament in Basel, before trying to qualify for the final Masters event of the season in Paris.
He has resumed his partnership with former coach Mark Hilton, initially on a trial basis, and is not defending any ranking points from 2018 over the last few weeks of the season.
If all goes very well, he could even be among the 32 seeds for January’s Australian Open.
He can also expect to play a significant role for Great Britain when the week-long Davis Cup Finals take place in Madrid in November.
Evans is back where his talent suggests he should belong. And, irrespective of how long it lasts, he can reflect on a year in which he has been Britain’s top male player.
That was never a goal when he was a child, and you sense he is most proud of just being an established top 100 player once again, having seen many talented teens fall by the wayside.
“I always thought I was pretty good,” Evans said.
“I thought I had a good chance, and then from 17 through to 23, I didn’t think I really knew how to get to being a professional.
“When you are growing up, you just want to be a tennis player – you don’t really know what it entails to get to the top 100 in the world. I’m not sure in Britain how easy it is to explain to the guys how you have to do it, because none of the coaches who are explaining it have ever done it.
“It’s mentally challenging, and so difficult to get to the top 100.”