Dan Evans' success is acting as a tennis inspiration for Sunderland's rising star Jonathan Binding
Dan Evans. Roll the clock back two years and very few people outside the tennis community would have known the name.
But a Davis Cup medal, a handful of grand slam victories and this month’s run to the Australian Open last 16 goes to show that a lot can change in just 24 months.
High Barnes’s own tennis sensation Jonathan Binding is hoping he can use the meteoric rise of Evans as inspiration in his own career.
And interestingly, the 23-year-old is following Evans’ progress more than most.
Because back in the winter of 2015, just a matter of weeks after Evans had gone shoulder-to-shoulder with Andy Murray in the Davis Cup semi final victory over Australia, Binding beat the Birmingham-born world number 51.
“It is crazy how well he has done since then,” said Binding, who has himself, over the winter, managed to gain a world ranking.
“He was 140 in the world when I played him and beat him.
“It just shows how much work he has done.
“He is doing well and is an inspiration to any young tennis player.”
Evans’ career to date goes to show just where hard work can get you.
And it is that kind of mentality you need when you find yourself sleeping on friend’s settees, calling in favours and paying for your own training equipment and travel working your way around Europe as part of the relentlessly demanding tennis futures circuit.
This harsh reality of being a professional has not stopped Binding, with a career-high ranking of 1633 in doubles and 1756 in singles, from dreaming big, though.
At the moment ,it might seem like baby steps for the former Durham University student, but one day Binding is determined to swap the Barnstaples, Bad Salzdetfurths and Sarreguemines of this world for the All England Club.
“My long-term goal is to play at Wimbledon,” said Binding. “I know this is a long way off. It will take a lot of work to get there, but I am willing to do it.
“It costs about £16,000 per year to play. That’s how much it costs to do it properly. I have to do it a bit cheaper at the minute.
“I have to cut the odd corner here and there if I want to give the game as a pro a good go. And I do want to do that, but it is not easy.
“There is a depth in British tennis. There are a lot of guys between 300-500. It is that next step that is hard to take. A lot is to do with the finance.
“People aren’t making a lot of money. With all the travelling and tournaments you might be lucky to break even at 500 in the world.
“That is why people stall when they get to that stage. It is a huge thing. It is even harder at the bottom.”
Tall, rangy, doubles specialist Binding, recently returned from a tournament in Germany, is handy at singles, but it is with a partner where he believes he can crack life in the pro game.
And more immediately he has set his sights on securing a spot in the World University Games in Taipei in the summer.
“I love doubles – it is what I enjoy the most,” said Binding, coached by Adam Barratclough at Virgin Active Wearside.
“I want to concentrate on that. I need to find a partner I can work with.
“It is not easy, though.
“The big aim is the World University Games in Taipei in the summer. The selection is in May.
“I have to get some big results between now and then at doubles, not singles. It is so tough to get into the singles team at this stage.”
Cash is never far from the prospect’s mind. Tennis isn’t, as many would have you believe, all Champagne and strawberries.
He has had to graft for every penny he has earned in the game, with prize money totally less than £1,000 earned to date, having only turned pro last year.
“This is a big risk,” admits Binding, who has been sponsored recently by Sunderland-based financial advisor Vernon Stevens.
“I have a year aim. I am doing everything I can to succeed.
“I will have to see after a year where I stand financially as well as how much I have progressed. I am actively looking for help.
“It all comes out of my own pocket. Every penny I need. It is all savings and help from my parents as well as a little bit of sponsorship.
“Any money I made in Uni I put aside. It won’t last forever. I will be lucky if it makes me through the year.
“I have jobs and coaching lined up in case I need money, but it is difficult to hit the top with a job.
“It detracts from playing, though. I am determined to make this work.”