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Tennis: Evans steps out of Welsh twilight zone at US Open

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Twelve months ago, Daniel Evans was playing an obscure Futures tournament in the Welsh town of Wrexham, earning a meager $480 for making the semi-finals of a competition on the circuit's third tier.

But, on Monday, the 23-year-old swapped the somber surroundings of the North Wales Regional Tennis Centre for the razzmatazz of Flushing Meadows, stunning Japanese 12th seed Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round of the US Open.

His victory guaranteed him at least $53,000 -- $10,000 more than he's made in all of 2013 so far -- and set-up a second round clash against unpredictable Australian Bernard Tomic.

"It's pretty blocked path," said Evans, who won the decisive Davis Cup rubber against Russia earlier this year.

"It just shows that you can, if you get your stuff together, win some matches. Look at Jerzy Janowicz (the world number 14 and a Wimbledon semi-finals). He was in Sheffield last year playing Futures. He's doing pretty good now. Goes pretty quick."

Evans came through three rounds of qualifying to make his main draw US Open debut in New York to double Britain's representation in the men's tournament, ensuring defending champion Andy Murray does not get too lonely.

The Birmingham native believes Murray -- the US Open, Wimbledon and Olympic champion -- is forcing previously under-performing Britons to cease being content to live as second-class citizens on tour.

"It's not nice when you're playing a match and you've got three other people there and no one is watching. It's always nice that someone comes out and supports. Definitely good to know that the other countrymen want you to win."

And, of course, the money will come as a desperately-needed extra incentive for a player whose professional career has only managed to creep over the $200,000 mark.

"It means more to win the matches than the money. It's a bonus, the money. But I really want to be top 100, so that's when the money will start to come in, is when I'm top 100 consistently," said Evans.

"It is an added bonus. It would be a bit strange if I was just thinking about the money after I've just beat the 11th seed."

Nishikori admitted he knew little of his opponent after Evans had played Challenger tournaments in Vancouver and Aptos, California, in the run-up to New York, reaching the finals of both.

"I guess he's playing well in these Challengers, but I'd never seen him play before," said the Asian number one.

"He had no pressure. He was playing a little aggressive, and I was kind of tight."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130826/tennis-evans-steps-out-welsh-twilight-zone-at-us-open