Jack Draper on his ‘surreal’ Wimbledon run, his idol Andy Murray and the future

Jack Draper Wimbledon Boys' Final

After his impressive run to the Wimbledon Boys’ Singles Final in July, rising British star Jack Draper has been nominated by the BBC’s for the prestigious Young Sports Personality of the year award for 2018.

At the tender age of 16, Draper has won a host of Futures tournaments this year, is already making his way up the ATP Tour rankings and is on course to break into the world’s top 500 imminently.

Joe Tyler caught up with one of the most exciting young players in junior tennis and asked whether he could swap the junior Wimbledon trophy for the real thing in the next few years.

Jack, how’s life been since your great run at Wimbledon?
Jack Draper: “At Wimbledon everything was a bit surreal – the venue, the support. But now I’m back to reality; back to the grind of getting myself up to be a top, top player. It’s not about one week, it’s about every week. It’s different because at Wimbledon I can stay at home and be in a nice environment – and now I’m in Slovakia where there is no air conditioning in the hotel! It’s pretty different.”
Jack Draper in action

What have you learned about yourself since the tournament?
Jack Draper: “I’ve learnt that I have the capability to do some damage. My belief has gone up a lot. But also, it’s important that I’m still raring-to-go and stay humble – and to back-up my success week-on-week and not get too carried away with everything.”

Has your career trajectory changed or do you still have similar career ambitions (and timelines)?
Jack Draper: “I still have the same career ambitions and timeline. Being a good junior doesn’t make you a good pro. At the end of the day (number 8, is where I am) and you can be ranked 500 in Juniors – and that doesn’t give you an advantage in the Men’s game. If you don’t have points, you don’t have points – it doesn’t make you a good player, doing well in a Grand Slam in Juniors. It maybe raises your profile and more people know you, but in terms of career trajectory and where you’re at, it doesn’t really change much at all.”

You seemed to love interacting with the crowd at Wimbledon. Has it been difficult going from that to more low-profile events?
Jack Draper: “I love the crowd at Wimbledon and I was getting involved – and it was good. I was running on adrenaline and didn’t really know what I was doing. It was quite funny looking back on some of the stuff I was doing! It’s weird going from Court 1 with 10,000 people to one man and his dog in Slovakia. At the end of the day, Wimbledon (that sort of environment) is unrealistic for me – a Junior player. I’ll have to work my way up in order for that to become normal.”

What area of your game do you need to improve the most?
Jack Draper: “There’s no specific forehand, backhand, or serve. It’s more getting up the court more and carrying on being aggressive. I think that’s really important – because if you’re not, you get stuck at a certain stage in your career. You can get to about 100 {ranking} and you won’t then be able to hit through a few guys – which you probably could’ve done had you gone after the ball a bit more when you were younger.”
Jack Draper at Wimbledon

You were a very good footballer. Did you have to decide which sport to focus on – and was this a difficult decision?
Jack Draper: “It was definitely a difficult decision to make. I enjoy football because it’s quite a social activity – I’ve got quite a lot of friends who play and there’s quite a lot of hype around it. But I would say, I was always more individual – and more competitive as an individual. It was a choice I had to make, but I definitely chose the right one. I did feel like my love for tennis was more than my love for football.”

Who is your sporting idol and why?
Jack Draper: “My tennis idol is actually Andy Murray. Not because he’s British – but one of the things that inspired me the most growing up, was I had tickets to watch him play against [Novak] Djokovic at the Final of Wimbledon. I’d watched him lose the year before in the Final – and to go and win with all the pressure he’s had on him – Olympics, Wimbledon – it’s very inspiring. With Wimbledon, he had so many nearly moments – and then to actually do it, it’s very inspiring for younger people, for sure.”

You came through the Surrey Tennis system. How did their programme help develop your game to where it is today?
Jack Draper: “When I was younger, they helped me out a lot. I always loved County Cup and I loved all of the tournaments that they had in Surrey. One of the centres that Surrey Tennis really help is Weybridge – and that’s where I trained where I was younger. Obviously Justin’s got a big role in Surrey – and he was my coach for ten years. That environment has really made a big difference.”

What do you like to do when you’re not playing tennis?
Jack Draper: “When I’m not on court, probably hang-out with friends, or watch TV with a big pack of Quavers, or something like that! Or go to a greasy cafẻ (do something normal!).”

Finally, what’s next for you?
Jack Draper: “I’m on Futures at the moment, which is the hardest part as a tennis player. You see if you really want it or not. You have to go to some not great places. It’s a challenge, but if you do get past this, it’s the Challengers, and then one day the ATP World Tour. Right now, I’m in Futures trying to get my ranking up – and we’ll see how it goes.”

Jack Draper spoke to Joe Tyler in association with www.surrey.tennis.