Dan Evans knew he was starting to make it in tennis when he had the royal summons from Roger Federer to practise with him.
That was in Dubai eight years ago, and in the intervening period he has twice made visits to his base in Switzerland to act as a sparring partner.
So the British No 2, who on Friday night put GB 1-0 up against the Netherlands in their must-win Davis Cup qualifier with two to play, will be sorry to see the Swiss legend finally step away after the Laver Cup in London next week.
Roger Federer has announced his retirement from competitive tennis at the age of 41
‘Roger was cool, I think the biggest compliment I can give him is he was a very, very normal, down-to-earth person who obviously had king-like status in the sport,’ reflected Evans after a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tallon Griekspoor.
‘He treated me, and he treats everybody exactly like the normal bloke on the street would their mate. He would say hello to everybody on tour. He’ll be sorely missed — it will be different for the older guys not to have him around.
‘He’s obviously a very good partner to be able to practise with. I think he would be missed.
‘Obviously to be as good as he was he obviously wasn’t nice to everybody, I’m sure, but an amazing competitor.’
Dan Evans will be sorry to see the Swiss legend finally step away after the Laver Cup in London
Evans was again preferred to Andy Murray to play the second singles, and repaid the faith placed in him by captain Leon Smith after narrowly losing to America’s Tommy Paul in the opening rubber.
That was followed by a surprisingly one-sided defeat for Cam Norrie, who went down 6-4, 6-2 to Dutch No 1 Botic van de Zandschulp. As against the USA, Norrie made a slow start but he could not turn it around.
It meant that Britain’s hopes of making November’s world finals rested on the deciding doubles that saw Murray partnering Joe Salisbury against Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop. With two teams going through from four, defeat would mean an instant exit.
While he always looked to have too much guile for world No 48 Griekspoor, Evans briefly got sidetracked by the animated support from the orange-clad Dutch fans at the Emirates Arena. ‘It’s something I need to work on,’ he admitted. ‘It’s not the best part of my game. In this atmosphere it’s even more key not to lose focus. There’s a lot happening on the court, around the court. There’s away fans, it was difficult.’
Cam Norrie went down 6-4, 6-2 to Dutch No 1 Botic van de Zandschulp in the Davis Cup
Meanwhile the WTA Tour denied that it plans to return to China before it has received satisfactory proof that Peng Shuai is living safely and freely in the country.
A press release this week hinted that the year-end finals may go back to Shenzhen in 2023 after being relocated to Texas this year.
WTA chief executive Steve Simon said nothing will happen before the situation is resolved.
‘The WTA continues to work towards a resolution in China and are hopeful we will be in a position to operate events in the region in 2023 and beyond, but we will not compromise our founding principles in order to do so,’ he said.