“I want to be in the top 20” – Jack Draper talks 2024 goals, flying under-the-radar in the UK and his UTS debut
After making his first tour-level final at the Sofia Open last week, Jack Draper spoke with us about how he feels a difficult year has gone, his relationship with the British public and ambitions for next season
Jack Draper has had a thoroughly impressive year.
Despite missing long stretches of the season through injury – including the British grass-court stretch this summer – the 21-year-old has managed to finish the year by re-establishing himself as the brightest young tennis talent the UK has, while positioning himself well for a genuine crack at the world’s elite next season.
The last two weeks have been testament to this. Draper compiled a nine-match winning streak, winning the Challenger title in Bergamo, en route to his maiden tour-level final at the Sofia Open the following week.
This winning run included victories over the highly experienced David Goffin in that Bergamo final, as well as impressive wins against fellow burgeoning young talents Lorenzo Musetti and Brandon Nakashima.
This came just a couple of months after a breakthrough run the fourth round of the US Open.
The British No 4 took a few minutes to talk to us on the day following that defeat, during which he spoke about the lessons he will take from that experience and his optimism about the year he’s had.
From your perspective, do you feel there was something you could have done differently to get over the line in yesterday’s final?
Draper: I think, to be honest, Mannarino summed it up well when he said that it really could have gone either way. It was a close match. I played well in both the first and second sets, but then I maybe lost focus a little bit in the third. But I was happy with the way I played, and he was just the better player overall on the day.
Huge congratulations on reaching your first tour-level final. Amazing achievement. How did you find the experience overall?
Draper: Overall, it was a positive one. There weren’t really any more nerves than usual, or anything like that. It didn’t feel like it was a different type of match, as I was going into it treating it like any other. Before the final, I was mainly just concentrating on my own game, trying to give myself the best chance I could to win that match. So I wasn’t overly thinking about it being the first final or the first title on the day.
What sort of lessons do you think you can take from a breakthrough achievement like that?
Draper: I think I’ve learnt a bit more about what it takes to be regularly successful in tournaments week to week, with the quick turnarounds. I’d flown over from Bergamo just a day before, so I had very little time between those two tournaments, which comes when you make a good run and are playing the next week. But that is the life of a tennis player, really. Hopefully, I can take some lessons from that in terms of regularly making it to more finals and the later stages of tournaments.
“I think because of the big names and big achievements we’ve had recently with Andy Murray still around and Raducanu’s win at the US Open, maybe I’ve been flying under the radar a little bit.”Jack Draper
You are the youngest British male player to reach a tour-level final since Andy Murray in 2009. Huge congratulations. Do you feel as though people in the UK are aware of just how big your potential is, or are you still flying relatively under the radar?
Draper: Yeah, it’s strange in a way, because I feel as though I’m well-known in the tennis community, but maybe less so in the UK generally. I think people will know my name, but they won’t necessarily recognise me in the street.
I think because of the big names and big achievements we’ve had recently with Andy Murray still around and Raducanu’s win at the US Open, maybe I’ve been flying under the radar a little bit more than I otherwise would have. I obviously missed Wimbledon this summer as well, and a lot of people in the UK – if they aren’t big tennis fans – only watch tennis when Queen’s and Wimbledon come around.
I know it’s been a tough year for you, injury-wise. But there have been some brilliant moments. How will you look back on 2023 generally?
Draper: I actually think it’s been an amazing year. I know a lot of people might criticise me and say that physically I’m not there or criticise the number of injuries I’ve had. But I am working hard every day, not just on the tennis but on the physical side as well.
When I injured my shoulder, for example, it was a freak injury I suffered when serving in a match – I had no control over that injury.
After being out for a while, I was worried about my ranking and having to drop down to possibly play Challengers again. But then, making the run to the fourth round of the US Open, then winning Bergamo and making the final in Sofia has put me in a really good place looking ahead to next year.
Speaking of next year, are there any specific goals or aims you hold for 2024?
Draper: Not really. I’m going to take it more week by week. But I think with the ranking, I do have the target that I want to be in the top 20 by the end of the year. That’s the goal. Other than that, it’s about working hard, staying fit and getting to more finals.
You’ve recently been confirmed for UTS London in December. A UTS debut in front of a home crowd. How much are you looking forward to that one?
Draper: I don’t actually know who else is going to be playing there yet, as the past few weeks have been so busy – a lot of tennis. But I’m so grateful and honoured to be asked to play in the event, Patrick Mouratoglou got in touch and asked whether I wanted to play and it sounded like a cool event.
I’m just looking forward to going out there and trying my best to win those matches.
Playing in the UK is always great, I love playing at Wimbledon and the other home events, so hopefully this one should be really good.