British Teen Clarke Records Dream Week In Ilkley
Brit through to last eight on home soil
Fans of British tennis have been given a new star to get behind after teenager Jay Clarke reached his first ATP Challenger Tour quarter-final at home during the $150,000 event in Ilkley.
The 18 year old from Derby hadn’t won a set in his five previous Challenger tournaments - three qualifying and two main draw appearances - but sharply turned the corner this week. Clarke made full use of a wild card to defeat fellow teenager Alex de Minaur of Australia in the first round, then toppled eighth seed Illya Marchenko of Ukraine in the Round of 16 for the biggest win of his career. He’ll play Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in a rain-delayed quarter-final on Saturday.
“I haven’t played too many Challengers before this, so to get through some matches this week and have my best result means a lot,” said Clarke. “The organisers have put a lot of time and money into this event, so it keeps getting better every year. The practice courts are great and they’ve done more stuff within the club and added things to the gym, so it’s been really nice.”
Clarke has mainly played in ITF Futures events, winning two titles in Egypt last December and another in Turkey this March. But after progressing into Challenger events last month, he quickly faced a learning curve.
“The level at the Challengers is a little bit higher and more even,” noted Clarke. “I’ve played guys in Futures who have a really good match one day and are horrendous the next day. Marchenko is 29 years old, so you also have players at this level who are a little bit older and have had more time to develop.”
The Brit is in a unique position of being coached by his brother and sister, Curtis and Yasmin. Both of them competed professionally and know the effort it takes to succeed at this level, which has been a huge boost for the teenager.
“The main benefit is that it’s my family, so they obviously want me to do well and have my best interest at heart,” said Clarke. “The only drawback I can think of is experience in the sense that neither of them played at a level higher than Challengers.”
Clarke is already at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 396 and will climb even higher after his Ilkley run. He'll compete at Wimbledon after this week, where he has received a qualifying wild card in singles and main draw wild card in doubles with fellow Brit Marcus Willis. Clarke aims to compete on the ATP World Tour in the future and hopes to become a hybrid of the best attributes of the world’s best players.
“I might look to somebody like Andy Murray for the return of serve, as an example.I like watching pretty much everyone inside the Top 10 because they’re all so different,” he said. “I try to pick up something different from each of them, look at what they do well and try to emulate it.”