Dan Evans is determined to not let his drugs ban be the defining moment of his career as he closes in on qualifying for Wimbledon.
The 28-year-old returned to tennis in April after serving a 12-month ban for taking cocaine and although he was not awarded a Wimbledon wild card by the All England Club, he is now two wins away from claiming a place in the first round.
“It’s not easy to just start from nothing and go again, but you don’t lose that level of what you were playing before,” said Evans, who beat Belarusian Ilya Ivashka in straight sets at Roehampton on Monday.
“If you played it once you’ll always be able to play it again – I’m a believer in that. For the last few weeks I’ve showed that. I don’t think I’m far away from getting back up.”
Before his suspension, Evans was British No 2 behind Andy Murray and ranked inside the world’s top 50, but he is now ranked 343.
He has courted controversy during his career, however, having twice lost his Lawn Tennis Association funding.
“I’m a bit more open to the normal world than your stereotypical tennis player,” he said. “When I was brought up, tennis wasn’t everything. I was a normal person.
“I obviously got myself into a few bad situations. The older you get the more you learn about yourself.
“I got pretty high in the world [rankings]. I just made a bad decision. I had some pretty good days out there and there’s plenty more to come hopefully.”
Another Brit making his return after a long absence is Andy Murray and he claimed his first victory in almost a year when he beat Stan Wawrinka at Eastbourne on Monday.
Evans, who informed Murray of his positive drugs test before it became public, hopes the Scot will be back competing for major titles in the near future.
“It’s probably tougher for Andy [coming back from a long layoff], movement is a big part of his game,” he said.
“I wasn’t injured so I still had everything available to use, whereas Andy had to rehab.
“I do feel for him, especially someone who loves the game as much as he does, and how much he loves competing. It’s difficult for him.
“I’m a British tennis fan as well and the fan inside me wants him to get back up to the top.”