Clarke On Facing Federer: 'He Could Obviously Kill Any Player'
In early July of 1998, Roger Federer won the boys’ singles title at Wimbledon. Just weeks later, Great Britain’s Jay Clarke was born. And on Thursday, they will clash in the second round of The Championships.
Like many people throughout the world, Clarke grew up as Federer blossomed into an all-time great. Now, the 20-year-old #NextGenATP player will get to face the 37-year-old star on one of tennis’ grandest stages.
“I always looked up to him. Tried to copy a lot of the stuff he does. But I did that with all the big ones, to be honest. It's going to be a fun match. No real surprises. I know what to expect. I've seen him play a lot,” Clarke said. “I just need to get ready for it.”
Clarke’s four-set victory against American qualifier Noah Rubin on Tuesday was just his second main draw match at a Grand Slam. On the other hand, Federer is a 20-time major champion. So while theoretically, the pressure should be on Federer, Clarke is not going into the match with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“Obviously on Centre Court, you could obviously be embarrassed. He could obviously kill any player like he did today from a set down. That's never nice,” Clarke said. “I'll go out there and I wouldn't play above myself, I'll just play my game. That's the best test to actually see where I'm at. If I start doing stuff I don't normally do, then I wouldn't really learn anything.
“I'll always try to do what I do, maybe a bit higher tempo or a bit bigger serving in certain moments. I'll stick to the way I play and then just see how it goes.”
Like many kids, Clarke tried to incorporate some of Federer’s game into his own as a junior.
“I tried everything. I actually gave up in the end because it was too tough to do,” Clarke said. “Obviously all the tricks, the cool backswing volleys, all the stuff he actually doesn't use that much, I was trying to add in. I was happy when I stopped.”
Clarke has seen plenty of Federer competing over the years. But as the Brit says he does for all of his matches, he will do his due diligence by asking the likes of Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund, Daniel Evans and Marcus Willis for advice on playing the 37-year-old.
“I'll analyse a lot. I'll get some stats from a few people. I'll ask probably Andy, a few of the players that have played him, the guy he played today, because I know Lloyd [Harris] quite well. I'll do some research myself,” Clarke said. “I'll talk to Evo and Willis, Kyle, Andy. Get as much information as possible, then just use the best bits that are relevant for my game.”
Clarke, a wild card, arrived at SW19 on a six-match losing streak at all levels. But the 15th-placed player in the ATP Race To Milan will now have a chance to put that behind him in the biggest match of his life.
“I kept telling everyone, ‘No, I'm actually playing some of the best tennis I've ever played’,” Clarke said. “I don't think it's abnormal now for guys my age to win matches in Slams any more or to win matches in ATPs. There's a few guys, obviously Popyrin, Kecmanovic, Denis, Stefanos; those guys have been there for a few years now. It's obviously nice to win a first match, but ideally I wouldn't just want it to be a one-time thing.”