Jack Draper’s storming ATP run shows why he can crack world’s top 20

jack draper’s storming atp run shows why he can crack world’s top 20

Jack Draper has picked up from where he left off last season and is through to the final in Adelaide – Mark Brake/Getty Images

British talent Jack Draper continued his formidable start to the season to reach the second ATP final of his career in Adelaide.

The 22-year-old executed a mature game plan over Alexander Bublik, one of the most unpredictable opponents on tour, to put him one win away from his first ever ATP title.

The 7-6(2), 6-4 result was his eighth win from his last 10 on tour. Draper has picked up where he left off at the end of last season when he was the runner-up in Sofia in November. He also won the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in December, which is not tour-sanctioned and played in a shortened format, but still saw him beat some of the best players in the world, including Holger Rune.

Draper’s performances this week in Adelaide – overcoming world No 14 Tommy Paul and two players around the top 30 mark in Bublik and Sebastian Baez – suggest his aims to reach the top 20 this year are definitely realistic.

This run in Adelaide will push him to at least world No 54, and his ranking is arguably already lower than it should be, as he missed out on the majority of the grass-court season last year due to a shoulder injury.

Friday was a stern test against Kazakhstan’s Bublik, whose style is dynamic and unconventional. He has a huge 130mph+ serve but is also a fan of a surprise underarm effort, multiple ‘tweeners’ per match and tricky drop shots. His showmanship as much as anything can throw off opponents, and during the quarterfinals he found himself in the stands helping himself to a lucky punter’s packet of crisps mid-point.

That playfulness was not as apparent in the first set against Draper, though. He pushed the Brit with exhausting baseline rallies and a few surprise drop shots, but otherwise it was mostly all business in a tight opener.

They exchanged four consecutive breaks of serve as neither player got a firm hold on things. Draper led a couple of times, but was not able to completely snub out the Bublik threat. At 5-4, 30-0 up on Bublik’s serve, the Kazakh hit four unreturned bullets to get out of trouble, and then Draper sent a forehand marginally long on set point at 6-5.

It was in the tiebreak that Draper took the bull by the horns. The key moment came when he hit a running cross-court drop shot, using the lightest of touches to serve Bublik a taste of his own medicine. That put him 4-2 up and Bublik did not win another point as Draper wrapped up the opener.

jack draper’s storming atp run shows why he can crack world’s top 20

Draper saw off world No 14 Tommy Paul and Sebastian Baez, ranked 26th, en route to the final – Sue McKay/Getty Images

With Bublik, though, there is always the chance of him doing something leftfield. The underarm serves and exhibition-style volleys at the net came early in the second set, as the entertainer finally showed up. He chuckled through points and actually gained momentum, bowing to the crowd after hitting an outrageous winner through his legs.

He drew Draper in momentarily too, as the Brit matched Bublik’s tweener with one of his own. But that lapse in concentration lasted only for that game, as Draper refocused and then went a break up before storming to the finish line.

“I’m very proud of myself, it was a tough match today against a guy who is very unpredictable, put it that way,” Draper said afterwards. “I think he’s great for tennis, it’s fun to play him and to watch him play as well. It was tough, I’m really glad with the way I’m playing.”

Draper has been completely locked in all week, and will face Jiri Lehecka from the Czech Republic in Saturday’s final. Both are aiming to lift their first ATP trophy and though the pair have never faced each other on tour, they are the same age and played matches at junior level.

“It would mean a lot to me [to win my first title],” Draper said. “I came here last year and made the semi-final, I’ve gone one further this year. I made my first final the back end of last year, and I’m in the final again in my next 250.

“He’s at a career-high of 20-odd in the world. The first time I played him I was 13 I think, in the Czech Republic, and I always thought he was going to be a good player. It’s weird how a few years down the line we’re playing in an ATP final.

“I really hope I can get it over the line tomorrow but it’s going to be a tough challenge, the guy I’m playing is a really good player so I’m going to need all the support I can get.”

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