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British grand slam hopes get surprise boost at U.S. Open

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - These are heady days for British tennis. And not only for Andy Murray, the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion.

After years of shouldering his nation's grand slam hopes, the Scotsman is no longer fighting a lone battle. On Monday at the U.S. Open, there were two other British winners.

With Murray not scheduled to play his opening round match until Wednesday, Dan Evans briefly took over the spotlight for British men when he stunned Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-4 6-4 6-2.

Evans, ranked 179th in the world, had to come through the qualifiers just to reach the main draw and was given little hope of beating Asia's highest-ranked man and the 11th seed.

But the 23-year-old, who has spent most of his career on the Futures Tour, played the match of his life to claim his biggest victory.

"It's definitely a good one," said Evans. That was pretty good out there to play so well and against someone so highly ranked."

Laura Robson, Britain's top female player, beat Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5 6-0, though that was not much of a surprise.

A former Wimbledon junior champion, she teamed up with Murray to win a silver medal in mixed doubles at last year's London Olympics then made the last 16 at the U.S. Open.

This year, she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, and is seeded 30th in New York, making her the first British woman in more than a quarter of a century to be seeded at a grand slam.

The teenager has been steadily improving over the past few years but has her sights set on bigger things.

"I'm only in the second round now, so I have a long way to go," she said.

Evans lost his funding from the Lawn Tennis Association last year and has admitted to not always training hard but is now starting to reap the benefits of a harder work ethic.

He came to the United States early to play on the Challenger circuit and battled his way into the tournament. By reaching the second round he is assured of pocketing at least $53,000.

"I really want to be top 100, so that's when the money will start to come in," he said. "It is an added bonus but it would be a bit strange if I was just thinking about the money after I've just beat the 11th seed."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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