Jack Draper didn’t startle in Wimbledon’s bright lights with a second round defeat that only underlined his raw potential.
And he vowed to return to Wimbledon as ‘a different player’ next year, after his epic grass court season came to an end against Alex de Minaur.
This No. 1 Court clash between two former junior finalists was a hugely entertaining slugfest, in which thumping forehands and fizzing passing shots were punctuated with booming aces.
The crowd were loving it, especially a stunning 25 shot rally that secured Surrey-based Draper – who fired down one 133mph bullet – the opening set.
They sell cans of used balls for £5 at the All England Club but the ones from this match would only be good for the dog to chase, such was the power hitting on show.
But in the end the Australian 19th seed simply had a bit too much savvy, firepower and experience as he emerged a 5-7 7-6 (0) 6-2 6-3 winner to book his third round place.
This was De Minaur’s 17th Grand Slam, in contrast Draper was playing only his third game at this level. There are three years between these players and Draper’s development is certainly going in the right direction.
“Next year I’ll be a different player again because physically I will have improved,” insisted Draper, who is on the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme – the highest level of support for players aged 16-24.
“Hopefully I will have stayed injury free. Obviously I’ve got a lot to work on. That’s not such a bad thing. It’s just going to take a bit of time.
“It was a high-level match. I thought Alex played incredibly well. Definitely, definitely tough out there. I think I can take a lot of positives. There’s also a lot of things I need to improve and keep working, developing.
“In terms of my tennis, it’s obviously trying to hit my spots on my serve. I think my forehand needs a lot of work still. But I think the main thing is the physicality.
“Grand Slam tennis is completely different. This is one of my first experiences. I’m here on merit in the main draw and also playing against a guy who is known for being unbelievably resilient. It’s a really good challenge for me.
“I think I do need these types of lessons to really grow. I think hopefully as I get more experiences like these, it’s going to help me in the future to push on in these types of tournaments.”
Draper had chances to break in the second set but was muscled out in a tie-break without winning a point. That swung momentum to De Minaur, who dropped just five games in winning the next two sets.
However, the Brit – who has already cracked the world’s top 100 – can now look ahead with confidence to a US Open in August.
“I want to be a top player,” he added.
“I’ve just got to keep on improving, keep learning. I think I have the mentality to do that.
“I think I have a bit of time off then I’ll look to go to America and try to start playing on the tour more, make that jump.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll get in the US Open. It will just be another opportunity to try and prove myself and see where I’m at.”
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PHOTO CAPTION: Britain’s Jack Draper reacts during his second round match against Australia’s Alex de Minaur (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)