Jack Draper is backing himself to produce an Emma Raducanu-style breakthrough at Wimbledon this year.
The 20-year-old goes into the tournament on the back of a run to the semi-finals in Eastbourne and a series of results that have established him as one of the most exciting young talents in the men’s game.
Draper and Raducanu, who share an agent, have long been marked out as potential stars and, while expecting Draper to achieve what his compatriot did in 2021 is surely asking too much, there is no doubt he has lofty ambitions.
“I think what she did last year was beyond belief, it was crazy, and I think it gave a lot of British tennis players massive belief in themselves that they could do something similar,” said Draper.
“I think we’re all grateful to her for giving us that motivation and drive to want to kick on ourselves.
“I think my tennis is ready, it’s just how my body’s going to hold up and that sort of thing. This is my first grand slam on merit, second time playing a (best-of-five) set match, so I’m obviously very inexperienced but I do believe my tennis is good enough.”
While Raducanu stayed in regular school and dipped in and out of tennis, Draper, the son of former Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger, focused intently on the sport from an early age and reached the boys’ singles final at Wimbledon in 2018.
It has not been a smooth path, though. A huge growth spurt gave him the frame for a powerful game but injuries were a constant struggle, while the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic came at a time when his love for the sport was wavering.
But Draper appears to have come through the other side of both problems and is squarely set on ascending to the top of the game as quickly as possible.
He achieved the rare feat of winning four second-tier Challenger titles in the first three months of the year – in the last of them beating Belgian Zizou Bergs, his opponent on Tuesday, in the final – and has also claimed four victories over top-50 players so far in 2022.
Draper has worked particularly hard on his movement since his Wimbledon debut last year, when he won the first set against a rusty Novak Djokovic in the opening round before being well beaten thereafter.
The young Londoner feels he is a different player 12 months on, saying: “I think it’s like night and day. Last year I was injured the whole time up until this event, even at Queen’s I’d hurt myself again and I wasn’t necessarily feeling unbelievable coming into this week.
“It was a good experience to play Novak on a big court and all the rest of it. This year I’ve obviously come up the rankings, I’ve had to put in a lot of graft in the Challengers and I think I’m ready to progress again to tour level now.”
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