#NextGenATP Briton Jack Draper entered the 2022 season at No. 265 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with just two tour-level wins to his name.
Fast forward 11 months and the 20-year-old arrives at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan as the World No. 45, holding a 17-11 tour-level record on the season. Having struggled with injuries in previous years, Draper feels that his ability to stay fit in 2022 has been paramount to his rise.
“It has been the first season I have been able to play lots,” Draper told ATPTour.com. “With my injuries in the past few years I have not been able to play as much as I would have wanted to, because of some unfortunate injuries. For example, I did some ligaments in my ankle. Just not getting that consistency of practising and competing. I think that is the biggest thing this year, just being able to stay fit and healthy and stay on court. I am ready physically and mentally to put it on court together.”
Draper, who missed the second half of 2021 due to a ruptured ligament in his ankle, started the season on fire, winning four ATP Challenger Tour titles in the opening four months of the year.
The Briton holds a 24-4 record on the Challenger Tour in 2022 and feels the experiences he has gained at that level have been crucial in his development.
“I think the Challenger Tour is massive for players,” Draper said. “When you come through and start winning tournaments back-to-back at that level it gives you huge confidence you can come on Tour and compete with these guys. Everyone on the Challenger level is hungry to do well because that is what gets you onto the Tour. The Challenger Tour has given me a real base and confidence of coming onto the Tour. It gives you a great platform.”
After a strong opening to the year, Draper, who supports Manchester United Football Club and enjoys listening to rap and grime music, started to gain entry into tour-level events where he quickly made his mark.
The lefty won main draw matches at ATP Masters 1000 events in Miami and Madrid and then soared to his first tour-level semi-final on home soil in Eastbourne. Draper made his biggest splash in North America, though, where he earned his first Top 10 win against Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals in Montreal before he upset Felix Auger-Aliassime at the US Open.
For Draper, his run to the third round in New York stands out as a highlight.
“I think the most satisfying run was [at] the US Open,” Draper said. “I feel I beat two players in [Emil] Ruusuvuori and Auger-Aliassime who are top players and people I have been watching the past couple of years. The win against Auger-Aliassime gave me confidence that I can play well and really compete with these guys. The Tsitsipas win as well in Montreal. Playing those top players and getting wins and feeling comfortable is crucial.”
Possessing a big forehand, fearsome serve and rock-solid backhand, Draper is now ready to bring his best level to Milan. He will make his debut at the 21-and-under event, to be held from 8-12 November.
“It was a goal [to qualify] from the start of the year,” Draper said. “I have watched the event over the past couple of years and it looks like a very exciting event with lots of great players and young players coming through. I tried not to pay too much attention to qualifying as I know there are so many young players doing great things as well, but I suppose I put in the work and I kept on banking good weeks.
“I think it will be special to be a part of. You don’t get to play many tournaments where there are just eight players competing. They are all guys who are coming onto the scene and are exciting prospects. I think that is the real exciting thing, that you are playing guys who are a similar age and playing great tennis as well and have been consistent throughout the year.”
Draper will be joined at the Allianz Cloud by seven fellow #NextGenATP stars, including Lorenzo Musetti, Holger Rune and Brandon Nakashima. The Briton revealed that he is excited to test his mettle against the trio in Milan as he looks to build long-running rivalries with them.
“Seeing the likes of Musetti, Rune and Nakashima who have had great years. They are probably the guys I am most excited to play,” Draper admitted. “I feel like they have always been really good players and I have grown up in that age gap. Musetti I have always been around at the junior tournaments and it has been good to see him have a bit of a breakthrough year this year.”