Tim Henman makes bullish Jack Draper prediction as his US Open run ends

Kevin Palmer
Jack Draper is the new British No 1
Jack Draper has risen to become the British No 1 in recent weeks

Jack Draper’s US Open run has come to an end after a fourth-round defeat at the hands of Andrey Rublev, but former British No 1 Tim Henman believes this is just the start for one of the rising stars of the game.

Draper made it through to the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time, but he fell to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat against experienced No 8 seed Rublev.

Yet his performances in New York suggest he is ready to finally come to the fore at the top of the game.

Like his fellow Brit Emma Raducanu, injuries have halted Draper’s progress since he surged into the top 40 of the ATP Rankings.

Henman believes he has the raw potential to break through at the highest levels of the game.

“It has been a very good tournament for Jack and he will take away so much from this,” he told Sky Sports.

“The physicality, the intensity and what it takes mentally to play these kinds of matches was there in the end, but he can take a lot from this.

“There were critical moments in this match and when his energy levels dropped and he wasn’t getting up to his serve, it slipped away from him.

“In the end it was disappointing, but to me, he is just scratching the surface. He is still new at this level and he’s had a lot of difficulties off the court with injuries.

“If he can build that resilience physically then he will be back at the fourth-round of Grand Slams soon and going even further.”

Draper’s booming serve and thumping forehand are weapons that can fire him back towards the top 20 of the game if he can steer clear of injuries, with his ongoing shoulder issue a concern for his ambitions.

Yet despite serving well within himself in a bid to manage the shoulder problem, Draper was the only British player to reach the last 16, and he gave combustible Russian Rublev plenty of reasons to vent his spleen in a see-saw contest.

“With the amount of injuries I’ve had and the amount of times I’ve not been able to compete, and I’ve had difficult times in my career, it has honestly been tough to believe I can go all the way in a Grand Slam right now,” said Draper.

“It’s not my tennis which is something that is holding me back, it’s my physicality and being able to stay on court consistently.

“Once I do that I think I will prove to myself I will be able to be one of the best players in the world.

“My tennis is right there. I’ve barely played in the last couple of months and I’ve come here, made the fourth round and pushed a top-10 player today.

“If I just can get things right, still be being able to compete and train, I think I can go all the way in this sport, 100 per cent.

“The first couple of sets were a battle and I started to struggle physically after I broke him in the third set.

“I gave it all I had mentally, but I was pretty drained. That’s where, now that I’m fit, we can go back to base and try and work each day to be better with that intensity.

“It’s tough when you’ve been out so long and have no feedback. I can train with more intensity now remembering that match and how knackered I was after it.”

With Andy Murray’s time in the game coming to an end and Cameron Norrie struggling in 2023, Draper has a chance to get in the mix to be the British No 1 next year, with his potential shining through in New York.

Fatigue was the big issue for Draper in this match, as he was in a position to press for a victory as he won the second set and had an early break in the third.

Yet that was where the wheels fell off, with Draper’s lack of time on the court over recent months catching up with him as he ran out of fire in his weary legs.

Once the momentum was back with Rublev, he won six of the next seven games to motor away with the third set.

Draper had never won a four-set match until he beat Michael Mmoh on Saturday, and his exertions – as well as his lack of court time this year – seemed to have caught up with him in the fourth.

Rublev took advantage of a weary service game to lead 3-2 and, although Draper saved two match points on serve, and another on his opponent’s, he was unable to avoid slipping to defeat in two hours and 45 minutes.

In the end, a first Grand Slam quarter-final proved to be out of reach for Draper, but there was good evidence in the four matches he played at the US Open to suggest that and much more will come.

Henman is not alone in predicting big things for the rising star of British tennis over the next couple of years – if his body holds up to the rigours of the tour.

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