David Felgate was there in the coaching box when his former charge Tim Henman played for the first time against a young Roger Federer.
Staggeringly, that was nearly 20 years ago, and on Wednesday Felgate struggled to believe that he was watching the same player, this time in his role supervising the revival of Dan Evans.
‘It’s incredible to think that Roger is still there at the highest level,’ reflected Felgate after his player had put up spirited resistance before losing 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 in a highly attractive second-round battle.
Roger Federer raises his arms in celebration after he managed to beat Dan Evans in Melbourne
Dan Evans’ coach David Felgate (L) finds it hard to believe Federer is still playing at such a level
‘What really strikes you about him (Federer) is his movement and balance at that age. It’s phenomenal, and the rest of his game can’t happen without that.
‘The serve, too, and the way he manages to hit his spots. I could never have thought he would still be going when I watched him play Tim in Basle and Vienna.’
Evans reminded a packed Rod Laver Arena of his rare ability to strike a tennis ball. He had two serves at 5-4 in the first tie-break that could have turned it into a very interesting contest, but missed volleys on both occasions.
Afterwards, Federer paid him the compliment of saying that it felt like he was looking into a mirror (because they play the game in the same easy-on-the-eye style). And looking in the mirror rarely displeases His Rogerness.
But as Felgate and Evans acknowledged, putting on a great show in front of a worldwide audience and a live crowd of 15,000 will count for nothing if he cannot reproduce it in more humble settings.
Felgate was most impressed by the movement and balance of the Swiss legend
While qualifying and making the second round will boost his ranking to around 160 — from a standing start last April when his cocaine ban expired — there is still much to do. His next stop will be an obscure Challenger tournament in the northern French town of Quimper.
‘The thing that matters is that he takes that level he showed today and applies it on court when he is facing a player who he is better than, rather than today when not too much was expected and he wasn’t the favourite,’ said Felgate.
The coach was around British tennis before the days when Henman and Greg Rusedski lifted the domestic game, and cautions against too much gloom at a time when it seems assured we have seen the best of Andy Murray.
‘Andy is obviously a one-off but we do have some players capable of making an impact at Grand Slams and you can include Dan as one of those. He is mentally strong enough and good enough to step up.’
For Evans it was quite a transformation from a year ago, when he was in the midst of his year’s ban for taking cocaine and marooned at his home in Cheltenham, barely aware the Australian Open was taking place.
Evans gave his all but wasn’t able to find a way past the reigning champion on Wednesday
‘I didn’t watch any of the matches. I was probably in a pretty bad place,’ he said. ‘The time off I had was terrible. A lot went on — a lot of s*** basically. You come out of it on the other side and hopefully I can kick on and get back to where I was.
‘I was just in the house — pretty much depressed, actually. I didn’t think I’d ever play again. I was difficult to be around. I owe the people who were around me a lot. That’s what you’ve got family and friends for. Hopefully they enjoyed this week as much as I did.’
Assessing his goals, he added: ‘I’d like to be main draw at Wimbledon off my own ranking. That would mean I’ve won a lot of matches. Obviously this week helps.’
Federer, who insisted he was unaware of his opponent’s ranking beforehand, had seen enough in being forced to two tie-breaks to predict: ‘I think he can be top 50 again, no problem.’
Had Evans executed slightly better in the tiebreaks, having broken back in the second set after being treated for blisters, this could have been extremely close.
It was tough going from the off but Evans managed to stay competitive in the first set
Katie Boulter had the difficult task of facing Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the fast-rising No 11 seed of whom great things are expected.
The 22-year-old Leicestershire player again acquitted herself admirably before going down 6-3, 6-4 to a formidable athlete and ball striker.
She is starting to look at home on the WTA Tour and can look back with satisfaction on a trip that also saw her play in the Hopman Cup, where she faced Serena Williams among others.
‘My whole trip to Australia has been a learning experience,’ said Boulter.
‘It has been really great for me. I have been surrounded by people I am not normally around. I have learned so much from just playing matches on big courts, which I haven’t done before.
‘I feel a lot more settled out there. And I will definitely use it for the rest of my year.’
In the short term, this is likely to involve playing a tournament in St Petersburg before turning out for Great Britain in Bath next month in the Fed Cup.