‘Tennis really isn’t glamourous’: Wimbledon Boys’ finalist Jack Draper on his quest to the top

By Matt Verri
February 12 2020, 16.40

The less glamorous side of tennis has become abundantly clear to Jack Draper since his taste of the big time.

The 18-year-old from Sutton was thrust into the limelight in 2018 when he reached the final of the Wimbledon Boys’ Singles.

However Draper, ranked 320 in the world, admitted the reality of the sport is a very different picture to the one seen at the elite level as he seeks to establish himself on the Challenger Tour.

“Players at lower levels have to go and grind in horrible places and only see their bedroom and the tennis court for two weeks,” Draper said.

“People see tennis on TV, and they watch the Australian Open or Wimbledon and they see Federer and he’s there not sweating.

“That’s not what tennis is, tennis is the complete opposite of that. I’ve learned that in the last 18 months – tennis really isn’t glamorous.”

He added: “The travelling is difficult – I struggle massively with it. And it’s not as though you can just have a couple of months off to clear you head.

“I sometimes struggle with wanting to work hard every day, but who wants to work hard at a young age?

“That’s the thing with tennis, you have to be extremely mature and use everyday to better yourself – hard works pays off in the end.”

It’s a far cry from that 2018 success at Wimbledon, where Draper arrived having agreed with his coach that it would be his last junior tournament regardless of the outcome.

Despite having never previously won a match at a Grand Slam, the Brit reached the final, an experience he reflects on 18 months later as a surreal one.

“When you go on those courts at Wimbledon, you feel the pressure of being a Brit 100%,” Draper admitted.

“That’s why what Andy Murray has done is unbelievable, dealing with that pressure. If I ever have a problem I’m sure he’ll be the first person I message, he’s so normal and keen for British tennis to do well.”

He added: “The final was a really weird experience because I thought the court would be empty and then I walked out and had 10,000 people on top of me.

“A few weeks later I was in Belgium getting my first professional ranking point in front of a man and his dog in a park!”

Murray is clearly a source of huge inspiration for Draper, and the teenager became the youngest British winner on the Futures Tour since Murray when he won in Nottingham in 2018.

Last October, Draper beat Jack Sock, ranked as high as eighth in the world just two years ago, in the biggest win of his career to date, and one that shows he is more than capable of making the jump from Futures to Challenger level.

“At the moment, my level is where I believe I can beat anyone, it’s just the consistency of doing it day-in, day-out,” he said.

“At Future level, you know if you do the right thing you have a great chance of winning the tournament, but at Challenger level it’s a step up.

Describing playing Denis Istomin play in Bangkok, he said: “You watch these players on TV and all of a sudden you’re playing against them which is something I have to get used to.

“This season I want to get my ranking up to around the top 300, so I can get in the Challengers full-time – at the moment I’m on the cusp which makes it tough to make plans,” he added.

“I feel really strongly about trying to get a wildcard for Wimbledon this year, and putting in a good performance.”

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