Dan Evans brushed off jibes from Tim Henman about his weight and insisted he is in good shape for the Australian Open.
Henman captained the British team at the ATP Cup, where Evans starred with two victories over top-20 players, but, discussing the 29-year-old following the quarter-final loss to Australia, Henman remarked that Evans “could miss a few meals”.
It was surprising timing given Evans’ performances, which helped lift him to a career high of 32 in the rankings, earning him a seeding at a grand slam for the first time.
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Responding in a press conference at Melbourne Park, Evans said: “I’ve been called worse than fat.
“Listen, I can’t help how I look. I think I’m in pretty good shape and it’s just, aesthetically, I guess, how I am. I don’t have a six-pack, I know that.
“It’s difficult to be a rake like (Henman). Not a muscle on him. Tim finds it pretty hard to give a compliment, I tell you that. But everything he did in the two weeks before for me was great.
“It basically topped the week off that I ended up getting abused in the end. It is all good fun right.”
Evans experimented with veganism over the latter half of last season but did not see the health benefits he had been hoping for so has now reverted to eating meat.
Before he knuckled down and committed to tennis, Evans was frequently criticised for a lack of professionalism.
He admits he still has weaknesses, particularly when it comes to a liquid diet, but said: “I have never had any complaints from the people I work with that I eat badly.
“I don’t mind a fizzy drink – that is probably not ideal. And obviously I don’t mind alcohol from time to time. But that isn’t the reason these comments have come about. He obviously thinks I could lose a few kilos, and that is up to him.”
The comments should not distract from what has been a tremendous start to the season for Evans, who also reached the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International.
He is feeling better about his game than last year, when he rose from 192 in the rankings to 42, and is mindful of the change in pressure his new status brings.
Ahead of a first-round match against American Mackenzie McDonald, ranked 132, Evans said: “They are all difficult matches.
“Even all through the matches last week, I found it a bit difficult because people will think, ‘You should beat him’. In the ATP Cup, I was playing people better than me, better ranked, but I still put my game up against theirs and made them beat me playing my game.
“I have to play my game and the challenge is to keep doing that against the people that I think I can beat.”
British number three Kyle Edmund is also feeling good about his game after building on his superb performances at the Davis Cup finals in November by reaching the quarter-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland this week.
Edmund dropped from the top 20 to 69 in the rankings at the end of 2019 through a combination of a lingering knee problem and a lack of form and confidence.
With a new coach in tow in experienced Argentinian Franco Davin, Edmund will aim to write more positive headlines at Melbourne Park after his run to the semi-finals two years ago.
He said: “I had my best year in 2018. You always want to keep improving and going up so it’s the first time I’ve basically been going down.
“I learned a lot about my body and how to manage it, the feelings of how much I can push on certain things. Ultimately it was an important period.
“My ranking is a lot lower so it’s up to me to play my way back up. You’ve got to earn the results. I’m looking forward to doing that. The position I’m in now compared to 12 months ago is basically a lot better.”
Edmund has a tough draw against in-form 24th seed Dusan Lajovic but he has won all three of their previous meetings.