Challenger First-Time Winner: 10 Questions For Jack Draper
#NextGenATP Brit kicks off 2022 with his maiden ATP Challenger title
If the first week of Jack Draper's 2022 campaign is any indication of how the rest of his season will go, Great Britain has a serious contender in the ATP Race To Milan.
The 20-year-old dominated from start to finish in Forli, Italy, streaking to his first ATP Challenger Tour title in impressive fashion. Draper dropped just one set all week and punctuated his first tournament of 2022 with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over countryman Jay Clarke.
A native of Sutton, England, the budding #NextGenATP star boasts a powerful yet agile game which has developed immensely in the past year. And his physical maturation was on full display as well, with all the hard preseason work in the gym paying off immediately at the Citta di Forli 2.
Draper, who turned 20 just three weeks ago, became the youngest British champion since a 20-year-old Clarke in Binghamton in 2018. In fact, only six other players from Great Britain were younger when they lifted a Challenger trophy, with Andy Murray being the youngest at age 18 in 2005.
Youngest British Challenger Champions
||2005 Aptos & Binghamton
||2015 Hong Kong
Draper is no stranger to the spotlight, having crashed onto the scene in 2021 as a precocious teenager. With all of Great Britain watching, the World No. 309 stunned Jannik Sinner and Alexander Bublik in reaching the Queen's Club quarter-finals on home soil. Back-to-back wins over Top 50 opponents had him soaring at the ATP 500 event. And two weeks later, he claimed global attention with a first-round clash against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. The match kicked off the tournament on Centre Court and a young Draper seized the opportunity, taking the first set from the reigning champion.
Now, six months later. Draper is taking his talents to the ATP Challenger Tour as he continues his push up the ATP Rankings. After competing in just eight Challengers last year, he is targeting a full season on the circuit in 2022. The 20-year-old has risen to a career-high No. 213 with his latest triumph.
Draper spoke to ATPTour.com after lifting the Forli trophy...
Jack, congrats on winning your first Challenger title. Can you describe your emotions? How does it feel?
I'm unbelievably happy to win my first Challenger. It's definitely something I've been working towards for a long time. I'm just really happy to get the win today and be holding the trophy.
Talk about the final. Were you nervous today?
Definitely. It's a final and my first Challenger final, especially facing a fellow Brit who is playing well. But, I fought hard and played well myself and am happy with the win.
It is always special to win your first title. What was different for you this week? How do you explain your success in Forli?
I think a good preseason helped a lot. There was a good amount of training I put in to be injury-free. I put a lot of work into my body as well as my tennis, and just staying injury-free is the most important thing to staying strong on the court.
It's an exciting time for tennis in your country, with so many British players coming up. How has their success inspired you?
Yeah of course it has. We have Emma Raducanu, who obviously had an amazing run at the US Open and played amazing. We also have Cam Norrie on the men's side and with Dan Evans, Andy Murray and Liam Broady, there's a lot of healthy competition and a lot of great players. I'm just happy to be a part of that.
What is the biggest thing you've learned stepping up to the Challenger level?
I think just the mentality and the concentration you need. Also, the physicality of every match is pretty tough. But you have to be on your game and if you don't show up mentally you'll lose. It's pretty simple. Just being mentally on all the time and not letting up.
Few teenagers have the experience of reaching an ATP Tour quarterfinal and then facing the World No. 1 at Wimbledon. Last year, you did that. Looking back, how did those moments help you grow?
It definitely did. Like you said, not many people have that experience, so it was very important. It was on the grass and I did have a lot of improvements to make on the clay and hard courts, but having that experience against Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner definitely helped my game a lot.
How did you get your start in tennis?
My mom was a tennis coach when I was at a young age, so she taught me how to play when I was younger. I also had an older brother playing tennis as well, so we used to play all the time together. It manifested from playing with them to wanting to become a professional.
Who has been your idol growing up?
I've been inspired by many different players, especially Rafa, Roger, Andy and Novak. Watching those guys when I was growing up was massive and inspired me to be the player I am today. There are lots of role models out there and you can take something different from each of them.
Outside of tennis, what is your biggest passion?
I do a bit of studying and am into criminology, which is a bit of weird one, but I'm a pretty normal guy and like hanging out with friends. There isn't a lot of time to do things outside of being a tennis player, because you're always traveling, but when I'm home resting I just enjoy myself.
Finally, is there someone you would like to thank for helping you get to this moment? Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My whole team and the LTA's support has been massively beneficial for me. I've been lucky and privileged to have them at my side. My coaches Charlie Faulkner and James Trotman especially. There are lots of people behind the scenes who have helped me and I'm very grateful.