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Evans had to buy his tennis shirts because he had no sponsor

He reached the fourth round of the Australian Open

Melbourne CNN  — 

With six-time champion Novak Djokovic out of the equation, Murray became the substantial favorite at Melbourne Park and duly cruised past Sam Querrey – the American who eliminated the Serbian at Wimbledon last year – to reach the fourth round after a 6-4 6-2 6-4 win.

Evans bought 18 tennis shirts for $19.99 at a Uniqlo store last weekend on the eve of the Australian Open and a few more during the year’s first major after his contract with apparel giant Nike ended in December. The overwhelming majority of top-100 players needn’t do such trawling since they’re given kit by sponsors.

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The fit, said Evans, wasn’t quite right in his match with 27th-seed Bernard Tomic on Friday.

“The one I actually put on the second time had been washed,” he revealed to reporters. “It shrunk a bit.”

But the material the Birmingham native produced on court was spot on against the last Australian man in the draw, as Evans prevailed 7-5 7-6 (2) 7-6 (3) to reach the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time and continue his breakthrough Australian summer.

He proved good enough to play the Australian, five years after Tomic’s controversial dad, John, said Evans didn’t possess the quality to even practice with his son in Miami.

He won’t have to worry about his shirt supply either, since Evans said the store sent him a whole batch Friday. Japan’s Uniqlo sponsors 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic and one of Japan’s most popular athletes, fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori.

“That was nice of them, yeah,” said Evans. “I’ve got quite a few now, and they were free.”

When the tattooed 26-year-old was asked why he pointed to the sky after downing Tomic, Evans said it was a tribute to former coach Julien Hoferlin.

Hoferlin was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died early in 2016, after he sent Evans a video during Great Britain’s Davis Cup final against Belgium in Ghent in November 2015.

It may have been a turning point in Evans’ career.

“I would never want anyone to see that video,” said Evans. “It was harrowing. He knew he was going to die. He pretty much knew.

“Those things sort of hit you. Yeah it’s just not an easy thing. Those years I spent pretty much every day of my life with him, day in and day out, in my working life. So, yeah, it’s difficult.

“Obviously I’ve got Hilt now,” referring to current coach Mark Hilton “but it would be good if Jules was in the court, yeah.”

World No. 1 praises Evans

Hoferlin would be proud of Evans’ transformation. It’s more focus on tennis and less on partying. Certainly world No. 1 Murray appears to be.

“Really happy for him because he’s a nice, nice guy,” three-time grand slam winner Murray told reporters in Melbourne. “He’s talented. He does work hard. Once you get him on the match court, he competes really hard. He deserves it.

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“I know he has a good team around him now. All of the times I’ve spent around him at Davis Cup and practice sessions he has practiced extremely well. He’s naturally a very good athlete, as well.”

Twelve months ago ranked 185th – he was outside the top 1,000 in 2008 and as low as 772 in 2015 – Evans’ all-court game has confounded the likes of Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic, two current members of the top 10, this month. He reached a maiden final in Sydney a week ago.

READ: Player’s great escape

Evidence of his ability also came last September at the US Open, when he held a match point on Stan Wawrinka in the third round; Wawrinka saved it and went on to claim a third major.

“I think he turned a corner 18-24 months ago when he decided to commit more to his tennis, both training and competition,” Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith told CNN. “He dropped to around 700 in the rankings and I think he then realized what he was missing out on and went from there.

“It’s been a gradual improvement in all areas on and off court for the last 18 months in particular and a lot of hard work from his coach.

“This Australian Open and indeed Sydney act as reminders of what level he is capable of reaching in the future. If he keeps working and keeps improving his game then he can continue to climb the rankings.”

Evans got the better of Tomic despite what he said was verbal abuse from Tomic’s player box at the rowdiest of the Australian Open’s three main show courts, Hisense Arena.

Tomic: Evans ‘deserves to win’

“If a player is playing like that,” said Tomic, “it’s enjoyable for me to be out there because if I lose a match and it’s on my strings and I had a forehand or a volley and I lost it, then, okay, I’m going to break all my racquets.

“But if he plays like that, he deserves to win, keeps it up in a grand slam the whole three sets against someone like myself, who is playing very good here always, I have to give him the credit for the win.”

Evans’ ranking, even if he exits to 12th-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday, is set to rise to a career-high of around 45th, meaning at least for the near future his days of qualifying are over. Murray, Smith and others involved in British tennis hope his commitment isn’t fleeting.

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Pocketing $135,000 by winning three rounds, Evans can now also spend his cash on more luxurious, non-tennis related items if he so chooses.