Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie and Daniel Evans have been prominent UK players for years. They each have excited fans with different play styles and personalities.
One thing they all share is Briton Jack Draper’s #NextGenATP future.
Draper, who finished fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, proved to be the favorite to earn a spot at this year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Murray, Norrie and Evans are not surprised.
“He always had a lot of potential,” Murray told ATPTour.com. “Many abilities.”
This time last year. Draper’s Pepperstone ATP was not high enough to qualify for the US Open. Now the 20-year-old southpaw is on the brink of the top 50 and dark horse Flushing Meadows.
One of the reasons Draper exploded onto the scene this year is because he was constantly on the court. Past injuries, including an ankle injury, and the Covid-19 pandemic have prevented him from taking advantage of good performances. But in 2021, he has captured 11 of his 13 tour-level victories and is ready for more.
“For 20 years old, he’s actually a pretty young 20-year-old,” Murray said. “[There were] six months of the pandemic when he did not compete … Although he is 20 years old, he has not competed in the past few years, but he is the best player.
It was clear that Draper wasn’t shy about big scenes. Although Draper has won four ATP Challenger Tour titles this season, he has also won four of his seven matches against top 20 opponents. According to Evans, this is not only due to his game.
“I think he’s obviously very down to earth, he’s been surrounded by good people for quite some time. I know his current coach, [James Trotman], never too high and never too low, and that obviously really helps in the big moments,” Evans said. “He obviously has a serious game and it’s no surprise that after he put it all together he was very effective on the Tour.”
Norrie recalls training with Draper once when the #NextGenATP star was 17 years old. Norrie said at the time, “He was a little out of his mind.” But over the past few years, he has been watching the evolution of a rising star.
“I knew he had a big game and he was already a big kid and I immediately got along with him and saw how competitive he was. For me, what he did is not a surprise at all, and I’m just glad that now he is really a professional, takes care of everything, wins some important matches and shows his best tennis in these important matches, ”said Norrie. “[I] I have a lot of respect for this guy, I really like his game, and I trained a lot with him in London. He knows my game very well and we are also pretty good friends… It’s really nice to see him doing well, especially in big tournaments.”
Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie” />
Photo: Paul Harding/Getty Images for LTA
Draper’s biggest run came in Montreal, where he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final. The southpaw upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, won the first set against Gael Monfils before the Frenchman retired with injury, and challenged the eventual champion Pablo Carreno Buste in a tight two-set match.
“I think Montreal has shown that it doesn’t care what kind of tournament it is, big or small,” Evans said. “He really just took it on.”
Murray added:[He] got the opportunity against Tsitsipas and had a good match. I think that in the match against Carreno Busta, the level of tennis was also very high.
“I think he enjoys those moments and it’s always a little easier when you’re younger because it’s fresh, it’s a new experience and there’s not a lot of pressure on you. But just looking at his game when he plays well [you see] how he compares to the best players. I think there are some really good, positive signs for the future.”
Players are often associated with certain traits. For example, Rafael Nadal is known for his incomparable fighting spirit, Juan Martin del Potro for his thunderous right hand and so on. According to Murray. Draper has everything you need.
“He has no major weaknesses in the game. For a lot of guys his size who are lefties I’ve played with in the past maybe [they] don’t come back so good. But he’s a good player for a big guy,” Murray said. “The two most important fundamental shots in the game he does well. He serves well, returns well.
“For a big guy, he also moves pretty well and then from the back of the court his backhand is a very reliable shot. [He] rarely makes unforced errors on this side, and then on the forehand, he plays with a lot of spin. When he has time, he can score points. He has a great forehand when he has time to load it and he is also a smart player and a good opponent. He has a lot to do.”
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Draper’s journey is just beginning, the next step will be his first round match against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori. This is another opportunity for the Briton to continue his growth. As much as Draper has improved this season, Murray said there is always room for improvement.
“At this stage I don’t think there’s only one thing [he has to focus on]. I think this is the complete package. You have to spend time working on the physical side, you have to spend time working on improving your game,” Murray said. “[You need to work on] the mental side and dealing with distractions and maybe a little more pressure that comes in the next period and just learning how to deal with those things. It is important.
“For me, at this age, nothing is more important than anything else. It’s all about developing and improving all parts of your game, becoming more professional, eating better, sleeping better, training better. All these things.