Dan Evans hoping to move on as he returns to tennis after cocaine ban

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After nine months of watching daytime TV and doubting whether he would get back to the sport he loves, Dan Evans is ready to move on from “the worst thing I’ve ever done”.

A year ago, Evans was flying high in the world’s top 50 having seemingly matured beyond the youthful indiscretions that previously blighted his career.

But those issues paled into insignificance when Evans was forced to announce he had failed a test for cocaine and was subsequently handed a one-year ban.

Sitting in the modest surroundings of Scotstoun Leisure Centre, where he will make his comeback at the Glasgow Challenger this weekend, the 27-year-old refused to go into the circumstances surrounding him taking cocaine or to say whether he had previously used the drug, but said: “It’s a shocking drug and it’s not just in sport, it’s a life-ruiner.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. It’s a shocking thing to do, it’s let down many people.  Luckily I was never in the position where I needed to get help for that drug but I won’t ever take it again and it’s that simple.

“If you saw the ruins it left behind just failing a drugs test never mind what that does to people, you’d be pretty confident I won’t take that drug again.

“But then everyone’s got to move on from what I did as well. It’s been a year now since everything happened, so I think it’s a good time to just draw a line.”

Evans has worked his way up virtually from the bottom before but admits this scenario feels very different, not least because he did not pick up a racket between learning of his failed test last June and when he was allowed to set foot in official training facilities again two months ago.

Whiling away the hours proved difficult, with Evans spending most of the time living with his girlfriend Aleah in Cheltenham.

He said: “It was amazing, I was saying to my girlfriend how long a working day actually is. Daytime TV is not good. I was probably the worst boyfriend there has ever been for nine months.

“It wasn’t easy, there’s some terrible moments in those nine months. I would never want anyone to go through what having a ban is like and it’s my own fault, don’t get me wrong.”

Breaking the news to those around him, and then revealing to the world what he had done at a hastily-convened press conference at a Novotel in London last June, were among the toughest moments.

“It’s just a terrible conversation, whoever it’s with,” he said. “The family’s the obvious one but all the other people, the embarrassment you put your girlfriend’s mum (through), her parents, that’s not what they want their daughter round is it.”

Evans still has time on his side as he tries to plot his way back to where he feels he belongs, but there were many moments when a return to professional tennis seemed too far away to contemplate.

“Nobody can sit there in that position and say ‘I will be back’; if they say that they are lying to your face,” he said. “I had doubts every day and there will still be doubts until there are two digits next to my name.”

Dan Evans picked up a racket for the first time in nine months in February
Dan Evans picked up a racket for the first time in nine months in February (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The level in Glasgow, where the main draw field is ranked between 105 and 343, should hold no fears if Evans is anywhere close to where he was before the ban.

He said: “Playing here, people won’t fear me any more. I have to earn that respect again. It’s all new. But it also feels exciting as well and, you never know, I might sit here in a year or two and it might have been a blessing in disguise to sort all my stuff out.

“At the start of it you think how are you going to get out of it all. Someone said: ‘It’s not as bad as you first think’. And it isn’t. It was a terrible thing, but things come together in the end and hopefully they have now.

“I could never look back when I was there in the Novotel and think I would see this now. So it’s pretty good.”

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