Jack Draper has warned he is a “completely different player” to the one who briefly knocked out Novak Djokovic as he prepares to make a bigger impact on his return to Wimbledon.
Draper, the Britain’s No.4, heads to the All England Club buoyed by a fine run at Eastbourne, which was cut short in Friday’s semi-final by a harrowing loss to Maxime Cressy.
The 20-year-old won the opening set against eventual champion Djokovic on his Wimbledon debut last year before ultimately succumbing to defeat. He believes he is in much better shape to progress deep into the Championships on this occasion, thanks in part to the lessons learned from his memorable center-court clash with the Serb.
“My preparation to play Novak last year was very different from this year,” said Draper, who will face Belgian wildcard Zizou Bergs in the first round. “This year I’ve been able to stay fit, my training has been more consistent and I’ve been able to get a lot of games, whereas last year I was injured pretty much until Queen’s . And then, even when I was playing Djokovic, something hurt in my body.
“I’m a completely different player this year. I think he showed me how many weaknesses I still had in my game.”
Draper’s impressive progress at Rothesay International led to a first ATP Tour semi-final. He was prevented from becoming the first British man to reach the Eastbourne singles final after Cressy added to a list of British scalps already containing Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie by edging out a tense encounter 7-6(5), 6 -7 (2), 6-3.
The towering American will face 2019 winner Taylor Fritz in Saturday’s final after knocking out defending champion Alex de Minaur 6-1 6-7(5) 6-3.
“He’s a very, very good player, it’s hard to get his rhythm against him,” Draper said of Cressy. “He’s serve and volley all the time, you don’t get in a lot of rallies, so when you hit a ground shot it feels a bit shocking. It was a tough game and a break was all there was to it.