Top Brits are backing Jack Draper to fly the flag at the US Open… but last man standing faces daunting date with Andrey Rublev for a place in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows
- Britain’s tennis players are backing Jack Draper’s US Open run to continue
- The 21-year-old faces Russia Andrey Rublev for a place in the quarter-finals
- Draper has bounced back from shoulder injury that’s kept him out for months
Among the few people not surprised to see Jack Draper in today’s US Open fourth round are his fellow British players.
The last one standing from a decent start among the Brits at Flushing Meadows, the 21-year-old southpaw from Surrey will take on world No 8 Andrey Rublev for a place in the quarter-finals.
With his ranking having slid to 118 through months of inactivity over 2023, Draper came close to pulling out of the draw before it was made a week last Thursday.
A stiff shoulder and a micro-tear in his upper arm have had to be managed, but still he has seen off three opponents.
On Saturday night the stage was left to him by the exits of Dan Evans and Cam Norrie, who before departing gave a glowing reference about what the British game was missing this summer as Draper convalesced from various ailments.
Jack Draper is the last Brit standing at the US Open after making it through to the fourth round
The 21-year-old celebrates his third round win over Michael Mmoah at Flushing Meadows
Draper will face a tough task in facing Russia Andrey Rublev for a quarter-final place
‘If he is fit, there’s no worries about his tennis,’ said Evans, who had taken a set off Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz.
‘When he pulled out of Winston Salem (the US Open lead-in tournament), that’s obviously not great preparation but it shows what a class player he is to be able to come into this event with no tennis and be sat in the fourth round.
‘Jack could beat a lot of players. It’s not rankings which bother Jack, that’s for sure. He’s sure of his game and he’s not fussed about a ranking or a name and that’s a good thing.’
Norrie also observed how coming in from a lengthy lay-off to beat elite players in a Grand Slam is a quality that should not be underestimated.
‘It’s definitely a skill, not playing too many matches and then coming in and playing at the level that he has, to go out and chop (17th seed) Hubert Hurkacz in the second round,’ said Norrie.
‘But I’m never surprised when he’s doing well and I’ve practised with him enough to know how good he is. I’m really proud about how he’s handled the situation.
‘The way he’s competed this week is incredible. He’s playing point for point, moving so well, so patient and he’s got a great team around him with Trots (coach James Trotman) there.’
There is little that Draper cannot do and he showed that in his first meeting with Rublev nearly 18 months ago at the Madrid Open when, with a little more composure, he could easily have beaten him before losing a deciding set 7-5.
British number one has backed Draper and praised his comeback after the shoulder injury
Tennis’s policy of allowing Russians to play on amid the appalling events in Ukraine remains highly questionable, although Rublev comes across as a likeable individual and he has been braver than most in expressing misgivings about the sins of his government.
When it comes to the trivial pursuit of tennis, he likes what he sees in his latest opponent. ‘Jack is a very talented player, he’s playing really good,’ said Rublev. ‘We had a couple of matches which were really tough.
‘I like how he plays a lot, he has a huge serve, really great forehand, great backhand and can play aggressive. He has everything to become a top player.’
This meeting, nonetheless, may have come too early for an upset. Rublev has a relentless, hard-hitting game and there must still be questions about Draper’s stamina given both his lack of matches and shortage of experience in the best-of-five format.
That is compounded by New York now heading into a late-summer heatwave.
The Russian also has an excellent record against left-handers, winning 14 of his last 16 against them, so expectations should be tempered accordingly.