Jack Draper was wandering the Wimbledon practice courts at Aorangi Park on Friday morning, unaware that the draw was taking place, when the 19-year-old caught a glimpse of his name in the upper section and realized that his first Grand Slam match would be against Novak Djokovic, the best player in the world, on the most famous court in the country.
Any kind of tension or unease would be completely understandable to an inexperienced teenager who has barely had a chance to compete against the top 100 players, yet he fearlessly seized the moment and clearly demonstrated his talent. Eventually, Djokovic staggered to world number 253 and advanced in four comfortable sets 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
“He’s a young man, only 19. I hadn’t seen him play much before Queen’s, where he played pretty well,” Djokovic said afterward. “In walking to Wimbledon center court for the first time, I think he has done extremely well. He behaved very maturely on the court. He was good. He stepped back and thought he could come back. He deserves credit for that and I wish him all the best. “
Despite his inexperience at the top tier, Draper’s ability to trade shots with players towards the top of the game comes as no surprise. The son of former LTA CEO Roger Draper, he has been the most promising young talent in British men’s tennis for some time and, after his run to the 2018 Wimbledon junior final, he initially rose rapidly through the ranks before he was cause injury. This month, he had his moment at Queen’s Club, where he beat Jannik Sinner and Alexander Bublik, both of the top 40, for his first ATP main draw win en route to the quarterfinals.
When the game finally started on center court after a moving standing ovation for Dame Sarah Gilbert, who designed the AstraZeneca vaccine and was present in the royal box, Draper pinned Djokovic behind the baseline, moved him well enough. as for Djokovic to slip numerous times and finish. the first set with 11 winners. What was particularly remarkable was how he handled all the tough times in the early stages.
Since his opening service game, Djokovic got returns and Draper’s serve under pressure. He generated seven break points in total, but each time Draper faced danger with his serve, he responded with a fierce left-handed serve or a scorching forehand behind to dispel the danger. He held Djokovic to 0/7 on break points during the first set, completely beating him in the big moments.
But the constant pressure under which the world number one submitted Draper’s serve during the first set was revealing and undoubtedly reassuring for Djokovic. When the second set began and Djokovic generated an eighth break point, Draper was finally unable to respond when he double-faulted on the break.
Nobody slammed the door like Djokovic. When he took control of the match and began to discover Draper’s game, he spent the last three sets ruthlessly dismantling it. It exposed Draper’s regular movement and devastated Draper’s greatest weakness: his return from service. Djokovic served 25 aces in total and even in the first set, he conceded just six of 24 return points. The Briton won just eight return points in the final three sets, including none in the third set.
Draper left to a standing ovation, another impressive performance on a summer-packed grass court. But this period has been only a brief taste of the player he could become. As you dive into the ITF and ATP Challengers tournaments, the real work begins. The way you apply yourself and work away from the spotlight, when you are the favorite to win your matches, will show if you can solidify this momentum and how quickly to become a regular face at the top of the sport. The journey will only be fascinating.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism