Imagine practising your serve, backhand and overhead smash in preparation for your Wimbledon debut, only to be told that you’ll be up against the world’s best player in your first match. Faaaaaack.
This is the reality for 19-year-old Jack Draper, who was at Aorangi Park, London on Friday getting ready to practise when he spotted his name against Novak Djokovic in the first round of Wimbledon. However, it hasn’t phased Draper, Britain’s best prospect since Andy Murray’s debut 16 years ago. “What an opportunity for me, to play against the best player in the world right now,” Draper told ATP Tour.
The Wimbledon wildcard had a wobbly start to the tour, collapsing from heat exhaustion after the opening set of his first-round match against Mikahil Kukushikin at the Miami Open three months ago. While the left-hander has been plagued by injury and has recovered from an “aggressive” case of Covid-19 in January, his two notable scalps at the cinch championships at The Queen’s Club last month – where he beat top 40 duo Jannik Sinner and Alexander Bublik – show promising potential on the big stage.
Though it’s no real feat for the rising star, with tennis in his blood. His mother, Nicky, was a junior tennis champion-turned coach and his father, Roger, was chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association from 2006 to 2013. Meanwhile, his 22-year-old brother, Ben, has just finished a four-year tennis scholarship at the University of California.
Draper started playing tennis at his local Sutton Tennis & Squash club as a child, playing with his brother under the tutelage of his mother. He saw huge success at junior level, winning three ITF Futures titles in 2018, before reaching the final of the Wimbledon Boys’ competition later that year, achieving a career-high ITF Junior ranking of No.7.
Draper also attended Reed’s School, whose alumni includes Tim Henman, and often practises with Murray. Now ranked 253rd in the world, Draper has taken home over £63,000 in prize money during his early illustrious career, proving that he might be a tough opponent for the defending champion.
While 2018 and 2019 champion Djokovic says “he does not know much” about Draper, he admits he is “wary of facing a home player”. The pair will play in front of half the normal crowd at 1.30pm on Centre Court today.
Draper, we are rooting for you!