Dan Evans is hardly a non-League tennis player, but his trip to the Monte Carlo Open is starting to look like a dream FA Cup run.
Little is expected of the British No 1 on the brown dirt of Europe, yet he finds himself as the first male British semi-finalist at a tournament of this level since Andy Murray in 2017.
Just a day after dismissing one of the game’s greatest-ever players, Novak Djokovic, he added to this week’s unlikely honour roll by dismissing world No 15 David Goffin of Belgium.
Dan Evans has advanced to the semi finals of the Monte Carlo Open after another big win
A 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory earned him a shot at fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas this afternoon. He impressed in the doubles too, reaching the semi-finals with Neal Skupski.
These are scarcely believable heights for someone whose sporting upbringing — including squash and playing in the adult Birmingham tennis leagues — did not include mastering the particular demands of this surface.
After 10 straight losses on clay, he has now beaten the 2019 Monte Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic, recent Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz, Djokovic and the talented Goffin.
He has maximised the tools at his disposal, such as the dropshot, sliced backhand and a technically excellent serve which is only hindered by his relatively diminutive stature.
The Briton defeated David Goffin to follow up from his stunning victory over Novak Djokovic
He is the first male British semi-finalist at a tournament of this level since Andy Murray in 2017
Belief, too, as was neatly summed up afterwards by the rueful Goffin, who became his latest surprise victim.
‘I knew him as a junior,’ said Goffin. ‘I could see his red socks and the clay. You could see he didn’t like playing on it.
‘Now with maturity, he has developed a good game. It was only him who didn’t believe he was able to play on clay.
‘Now he’s mature, has a more stable game and he believes he can win. He was the only one not believing it.’
Even with changes to the ranking system that make it harder to progress, Evans is guaranteed to equal his career-best ranking of 26, three years after coming back from a 12-month ban for taking cocaine. The next match after a stellar win can be a difficult one, and in some ways this was more impressive than overcoming the error-strewn game of Djokovic.
Evans, 30, will now face Stefanos Tsitsipas to book a place in the final after a superb week
Nonetheless, the 30-year-old declined to shower himself with praise: ‘It probably wasn’t the best display of my game, I got dragged into his game a bit far back in the court,’ said Evans.
‘I know Tim (Henman) will be in the studio. He’s probably saying I should be serve-volleying.
‘Mentally, you’ve got to go back again. I think I did a good job in the third to hang in some games.’
Another revelatory performance will be required to give himself a shot at a fairytale ending in Monaco.
The upsets were contagious as last night Rafael Nadal, the 11-time champion, was beaten 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 by Andrey Rublev. He does, however, have time to recover for the French Open.