MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
Jack Draper has played only six ATP Tour matches in his budding pro career which began four years ago. However, the 20-year-old from Sutton, England will always remember his third ATP Tour victory. It came unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon at the Masters 1000 Miami Open presented by Itaú. Draper’s third career tour-level win was his first at the Masters 1000 plateau.
On Court 1, in front of a few hundred spectators, the 146th-ranked Draper defeated No. 139 Gilles Simon of France, 7-5, 6-1, in an hour and 48 minutes. The left-handed-hitting wild card entrant, who saved six of seven break points, closed out the first-round victory with a forehand winner. Draper outpointed Simon 73-55 to advance to a Friday second-round meeting against fellow Briton and No. 10 seed Cameron Norrie, who is currently ranked No. 12.
During his post-match press conference, Draper said the win felt “really good.”
“I played an OK match today. It was tough conditions. It wasn’t the easiest, especially after what happened last year. It was in the back of my mind a little bit.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) March 23, 2022
Last year, Draper, who was ranked 316th and entered the Miami Open with a wild card, was forced to retire after one set from his match with Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan after collapsing on court from heat exhaustion.
“I’m glad to come through the match [with Simon],” Draper added. “I think it shows the work I’ve put in the last six months. So, I’m happy with the performance today.”
The last time Draper appeared in an ATP tour-level match was last June at Wimbledon. A wild card entrant ranked 250th, he took a set off World No. 1 Novak Djokovic before losing 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
— jack draper (@jackdraper0) June 29, 2021
The 6-foot-4-inch Draper indicated he’s worked hard on his physical development and mental game since last year. “I think it’s always going to be a little bit difficult because I haven’t played a lot of outdoor tennis, especially in these types of conditions,” he said.
“I think the more I start to play these sorts of events in these conditions, it’s only going to help me and make me feel more comfortable.”
During the past half year, much of it spent playing on the ATP Challenger Tour in a variety of tournaments throughout Europe, Draper has been a three-time winner in Forli, Italy – all on indoor hard courts. In January, he beat Great Britain’s Jay Clarke in the title match, 6-3, 6-0, then followed it with his second title triumph in mid-February against Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-2. Draper’s third Forli trophy was won at the end of February over Alexander Ritschard of the United States, 3-6, 7-3, 7-6 (8).
— jack draper (@jackdraper0) February 21, 2022
When Draper arrived in South Florida to acclimate to the springtime heat and humidity, he had compiled an impressive 17-2 win-loss record in Challenger Tour events for 2022. Now, he’s 1-0 in tour-level competition in his first outdoor tournament of the year.
The subject of Draper’s recent Forli dominance came up and he was keen to talk about it. “Yes, it’s funny,” he said. “Forli, the place I’ve won the three Challengers, it’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s not a lot to do there apart from play, try to improve, play lots of matches. I’m glad I was able to get a lot of matches there this year.
“It’s not like being here. There’s a lot more things going on and stuff, whereas, at the Challenger level, it’s mainly just the tournament and the hotel.
“Yeah, it’s a good stepping stone to get to this point, the Challengers. I’m not at this level of my own merit yet. So, I have to keep working.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) March 24, 2022
After beating the 37-year-old Simon, Draper said he’s looking forward to playing Norrie on Friday.
“Yeah, for sure I’ve played a lot with Cam in the UK. He’s one of the guys who has been great with me as a young Brit,” said Draper, who took up tennis at age 3 and idolized Andy Murray growing up in Great Britain. “I think he’s always supporting, always sending me messages.
“Nice to get to share the court with him on Friday,” he added. “When I played him at Queen’s last year, I’m a lot better player than that I think.”
Norrie beat Draper, 6-3, 6-3, in the Queen’s Club quarterfinals, after Draper began with earlier wins over Jannik Sinner of Italy and Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.
“Hopefully, I can give him a run for his money on Friday,” said Draper.