Jack Draper was one of the breakthrough stars last year and 2023 is set to be another huge step in the youngster’s fledgling career.
The 21-year-old began 2022 as the world No 265 and ended the year in the top 50, with some success on the challenger tour, where he won four titles in three months before taking his game to the ATP Tour, grasping the chance with top-20 wins against Taylor Fritz at Queen’s Club and Diego Schwartzman at Eastbourne.
At Eastbourne, Draper beat Schwartzman en route to his first ATP semi-final before losing to Maxime Cressy.
In the summer, Draper earned his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon before the American hard-court season, which saw Draper defeat top 10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger Aliassime at Montreal and the US Open respectively.
The powerful left-hander ended the year ranked No 42 and was the first Briton to qualify for the Next Generation ATP Finals, where he reached the semi-finals.
With a good year under his belt, Draper will look to further improve his ranking this year in his first full season on the ATP Tour, starting with the Australian Open.
Draper has risen to the challenge in tough draws
In the lead-up to the first Grand Slam of 2023, Draper reached the semi-finals at the Adelaide International, as he prepares for a tough opening round match against Rafael Nadal in Melbourne.
Former British tennis player Barry Cowan believes Draper will only get better this year but cautioned that he is still at the development stage of his career.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the Australian Open, Cowan felt that the Brit will rise to the challenge of facing the reigning champion.
“I think it’s a very, very exciting draw. I think for Jack, this stage of his career, where he’s still very much in the development stage, it’s just a learning experience that is only going to help him further down the road,” Cowan said.
“I think for me, when I have seen Jack against the very best, he has really risen to the challenge from the moment that he played Djokovic at the Centre Court at Wimbledon a few years ago, he took the opening set and he’s a much better player now than he was then.
“I think it’s really exciting for Jack and another good test to see the game that he’s looking to develop and looking to evolve because he has so many attributes, obviously, that the temperament, the winning mentality, I liken it to Murray in that sense.”
Murray: Jack is one of best prospects
After a year that saw him leapfrog Andy Murray in the British rankings, hopes are high for Draper, after initially struggling with injuries during the early days of his development.
Murray described Draper as “one of the best” prospects on Tour and expects him to build on a landmark 2022.
Speaking on the ATP Tour podcast last year, Murray said: “Jack is one of the best prospects on the tour right now. He’s not played loads of tennis in comparison to a lot of the young guys around his age, he’s had quite a lot of injuries and setbacks over the last few years.
“He’s a big guy, and I think that’s normal. You know, for that to happen when he was, still growing and everything and adjusting to full-time tennis essentially.
“Professional tennis is a bit different. And I think, yeah, he’s had a brilliant year and I expect him to keep going higher next season.”
Keothavong: Draper has improved in the last year
Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Anne Keothavong said she is “excited” for what the year holds for Draper.
Speaking to Sky Sports News in December, the former British No 1 said: “With Jack, he is one of the best youngsters on the ATP tour, and he plays explosive and exciting tennis.
“The fact that he has improved as much as he has this past 12 months just shows what he is capable of. Compared to a lot of guys his age, he hasn’t actually played that much.
“He has had a lot of injuries and chunks of time out, but he is an unbelievable competitor and has a fantastic attitude, so I am excited to see what the next year holds for him.”
High praise also came from David Felgate, who coached Tim Henman for nine years.
Speaking with Tennishead, Felgate said that Draper has the potential to dominate tennis in the same way as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic.
“What he has shown, his game, his abilities, his love of the sport – he ticks every box and I like the journey that he has taken, step by step and a big jump this year. He has got all the attributes needed to go right to the top of the sport,” he said.
With the Australian Open the first major tournament Draper enters this year, the young Brit will hope he can continue his good form through the year, improve his ranking position and add further titles and scalps to his belt.
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