Evan Hoyt keen to make more Wimbledon history

Evan Hoyt missing Wimbledon buzz

No strawberries. No cream.

There are several notable absences in this summer’s sporting schedule, perhaps none more iconic than the 134th Wimbledon Championships.

But for Welshman Evan Hoyt, who reached the mixed doubles quarter-final at SW19 with partner Eden Silva last year, it has been a good time to reflect on his first experience of playing in the main draw.

“I’m sure for the rest of my life, looking back on the run that we had I’ll always have fond memories,” said the 25-year-old from Llanelli.

Hoyt was given a wildcard to play in the men’s doubles alongside fellow Brit Luke Johnson before he was approached by Silva to give the mixed doubles a go.

“She sent me a message on Twitter, we agreed to sign up together with not much hope to be honest,” he said.

“We knew that there are so many good doubles players in Britain and singles players who are higher up the rankings that Wimbledon generally gives the wildcards to, but we got an opportunity and the rest is history.”

History is the appropriate word: Hoyt became the first Welsh player to reach the quarter-finals of the main draw since Bridgend’s Gerald Battrick, who reached that stage in the men’s doubles in 1975.

“It’s moments like that after Wimbledon where you get sent clips from Swansea Tennis Academy, where I spent a lot of time as a junior, and seeing one of the kids on the news saying that I was a big inspiration,” he said.

“Only in moments like that do you truly get to reflect on how much of a role model you can be, even though inside you’re wanting more, you’re not satisfied where you are at. You still have people who look up to you.”

“We didn’t have any expectations to win, especially being drawn against Sam Stosur and Leander Paes who are both multiple grand slam champions, in the first round”

Hoyt and Silva beat Paes and Stosur 6-4 2-6 6-4, before winning in straight sets against 16th seeds Divij Sharan and Yingying Duan.

But Hoyt says his highlight of the fortnight was the third-round match against Belgian Joran Vliegen and Saisai Zheng of China.

“We were a set down and we scraped through that one, so that was a massive win,” he said.

“To do that on court two, our first match on court two, getting over the line and reaching the quarter-finals – that was amazing.”

‘What a winner!’ – GB’s Hoyte and Silva win point after extraordinary rally

The unseeded Britons, who in reaching the quarter-finals went one better than the box-office pairing of Serena Williams and Andy Murray, lost to the eventual champions Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan.

There was no chance to see if Hoyt and Silva could repeat their feat a year on, after Wimbledon was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Welshman, who bases himself in Spain for most of the year, was in Portugal when lockdown began.

“I was mid-match, a set up and 6-5 down in the second. And then everyone on the balcony started saying ‘tournament cancelled, all over’,” he recalls.

“My opponent started to speak to the referee saying: ‘There’s a flight in two hours, is the tournament really cancelled? If it is I’ll just get that flight, it’s cheaper’.

“He holds that service game so we go one-set all. At that point I go off for a toilet break and I was not furious but I was angry, I wanted to win this match badly.

“I ended up losing the third set easily because my opponent was just so relaxed.

“I spent my whole lockdown in Portugal, with my girlfriend who lives there.

“I was meant to come back to play the events here in the UK and literally the day before I was flying back, I was doing a yoga session and I went into a deep single-leg squat and my knee, my meniscus (a piece of cartilage) tore.”

Hoyt, who is now back in the UK and has had surgery on the knee this week, has had more than his fair share of injury woes and considered quitting the sport entirely after a severe shoulder injury kept him out for 18 months.

“I think so much of it is about your response from what happens and not actually what happens,” he said.

“Yes, you can look at it as being annoying and I certainly feel like that with all the injuries I’ve had over the years – the stress fractures in the back, the shoulder surgery and all sorts of broken bones as a junior, I always feel like I have been doing catch-up with my tennis.

“But that’s how it is and there are certainly people who’ve had it a lot worse than I have, so I’m not going to take the victim role.

“Three to four months recovery period is not a long time and the positive is that I can’t see the tour really getting to the full swing of things until next year really. So if there is a time that you want to get injured it’s probably now. I could have done it two months ago, but hey.”

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