Jack Draper is ready to “do some damage” at Wimbledon after recording his first grand slam victory.
The 20-year-old has shown this year he is more than capable of building on his standout talent as a junior, rising more than 150 places in the rankings since taking a set off Novak Djokovic on his debut 12 months ago.
His game is particularly well suited to grass and he arrived at the All England Club as a top-100 player and a genuine danger to the rest of the field after reaching the semi-finals in Eastbourne.
He drew another in-form player in Belgian Zizou Bergs, champion at the recent second-tier Challenger tournament in Ilkley, but Draper fought off three set points in the third set to claim a 6-4 6-4 7-6 (4) victory on Court 12.
“It was a tough one,” said Draper. “I felt like Zizou is someone who is quite a dangerous player. He’s someone I’ve known from the Challengers. He’s quite flairy.
“He can play some incredible tennis, then he can play some quite loose tennis. Overall he’s a great competitor, a tough player to play against.
“Glad with the way I came through the match. Obviously this is my first grand slam on merit, main draw win. I’m obviously very happy. These are all good new experiences for me.
“This is what I want to do. I want to have a great career, especially in grand slams. I know this is just a start, and hopefully I can keep on going from here.”
Draper achieved the rare feat of winning four Challenger titles in the first three months of the year to leap towards the top 100 and has already beaten two top-20 players this summer.
“I’ve been working with my team and my coach, James (Trotman), trying to keep on improving all the time,” said the former Wimbledon junior finalist.
“I think that’s our mentality, that every week, every day, I’m improving. On the grass I started off always trying to adapt. Last week I felt like I had a really good, positive week at Eastbourne.
“I came here confident. I’m ready to hopefully do some damage in this tournament. I believe in my ability. So let’s see how far I can go.”
The British number four is likely to get a bigger court assignment in the second round when he takes on Australian 19th seed Alex De Minaur, who has a British connection as the boyfriend of Katie Boulter.
“Alex is someone who has been around for a long time,” said Draper. “I think people forget he’s still very young.
“He’s a great competitor, incredibly quick, good on grass courts as well. It’s going to be a really tough match. I think I can use my weapons and hopefully play well.
“I think I’ve got experience of playing on big courts now. I look forward to hopefully playing on a big court. If not, it’s still Wimbledon.”
The only disappointment for Draper on Tuesday was the service game he dropped in the third set when he had looked in total control that allowed Bergs back into the match.
The Belgian played his best tennis late in that set, creating three chances to win it, one with a Boris Becker-style diving volley winner, but Draper saved them all superbly and played a fine tie-break.
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