(Reuters) - Briton Dan Evans spoke of his resilience after reaching his second career final with a 3-6 6-2 6-3 upset of second seed John Isner at the Delray Beach Open in Florida on Saturday.
Less than a year after returning from a 12-month cocaine suspension, Evans staged a remarkable turnaround to set up a final against Moldovan Radu Albot after a slow start to the afternoon semi-final.
Isner took command early, breaking Evans in the second game and winning the first set without facing a break point as his booming serve held him in good stead in blustery winds on the outdoor hardcourt.
Evans fought back, however, breaking Isner twice in quick succession to capture the second set before breaking again in the second game of the final set, aided by an Isner foot fault.
The Briton displayed few nerves as he held serve throughout the final set, closing out in style with four first-serve winners to clinch the final game to love.
“I got, not lucky, but I started to see his serve pretty well,” Evans told reporters.
“I wouldn’t say guessing, but anticipating and got ‘em right. Other days I could be looking stupid going (the wrong way).
“I returned really well when I got my racket on the ball, and that was my goal just to get the ball back.”
Evans previously appeared in a final at the 2017 Sydney International, where he was beaten by Gilles Muller.
After a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open in his next tournament, his career seemed poised to take off, but a few months later he tested positive for cocaine.
Asked what the experience had taught him, Evans said: “You’ve got to stay resilient in the sport.
“(Tennis is) so up and down. Obviously my down was from my own wrongdoing.
“There can be injuries. Let’s say mine was a mental injury. (It was important to) keep believing because I could never imagine I’d be back close to the top 100 in such a small amount of time.”
He swatted away a suggestion his suspension had been a growing experience.
“I made a mistake and I dealt with it and that was it. It was the worst thing ever, so I’m just back now trying to win tennis matches and stay on top of everything.”
Albot, 29, will be playing in his first ever final after thrashing American Mackenzie McDonald 3-6 6-0 6-0 in one hour and 30 minutes.
After falling behind in the opening set, Albot gained momentum from his opponent’s unforced errors and cantered through the final two stanzas.
Albot had reached two previous ATP Tour semi-finals, in Metz last September and in Montpellier earlier this month, but lost on both occasions.
A win against Evans in the final on Sunday would make him the first Moldovan to win an ATP Tour title.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina and Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Clare Fallon and Nick Mulvenney