Injury stopped Jack Draper from the US Open but the 20-year-old leaves New York more confident than ever about his tennis future.
Draper looked well positioned for another big result at Flushing Meadows as he led 27-point Karen Khachanov with a break in the third set of their third-round clash.
But he began to struggle with a hamstring problem that continued to worsen, and after losing four straight games 6-3, 4-6, 6-5, Draper decided to call it a day.
He said: “It was just the tip of my hamstring, the insertion between the hamstring and the groin. I’ve struggled with it before and maybe this time all the tennis I’ve played over the past seven weeks just caught up with me a bit.
“I think I made it 2-0 in the third. I went to a wide ball and only felt a pang. I feel like if you put in a little effort and it gets worse, there really is no going back.
“You can’t compete at this level when you’re injured. It was a tough nut to crack.”
Draper, who will move into the top 50 by the end of the tournament, underscored both the rapid progress he’s made this season and his huge potential by defeating sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round.
He started slow against Khachanov but turned the match well in the second set, his powerful serves and groundstrokes starting to do some damage.
But it became clear Draper was in physical trouble when he took a medical time-out and walked off after five games of the third set.
He won back-to-back games on the resumption, with Khachanov perhaps affected by the delay but unable to serve the set and pulling the plug shortly after.
However, Draper wasn’t too downcast, saying: “I think I can take a lot of positives from the game, but I think the most important thing is that I still need to improve my body. My body just isn’t ready to go really deep in this tournament.
“This is my second Slam on Merit. It’s very different playing the five set matches. I beat some really good players and felt like I was coming back today. I would have had a chance to win this match if I had been injury free.
“I can also look very positively at the year I’ve had so far. Looking back I have thought about quitting tennis during Covid. When I think that I’m here now and that I cracked the top 50 this week, I’m very proud of myself.”
A late physical developer, Draper was disillusioned with injuries and the lackluster grinding down the lower rungs of the tennis ladder, but he’s now jumping to the top of the game.
“I’ve had a lot of injury experiences over the past few years and certainly a lot of deep moments,” he said.
“I know the only way to do that is to keep your head up and stay positive, keep your shoulders back and just keep moving. There’s a lot worse in the world than injuring myself at the age of 20 in the third round of the US Open.
“I think the exciting thing is that I still have such a long way to go, I can improve so much. My game is probably at 60 percent of my capacity. I honestly believe so. I think I’m ready to do it, but it’s just going to take time.”
Draper expects to make a full recovery in two to three weeks but that will likely rule him out of the British Davis Cup campaign in Glasgow later this month.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/jack-draper-karen-khachanov-new-york-lta-felix-augeraliassime-b2158799.html Jack Draper is confident in the future of tennis despite an injury that forces him out of the US Open