Jack Draper not far off Carlos Alcaraz as Andy Murray gives verdict

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Jack Draper has admitted he doesn’t feel “far off” the level of world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz as he reflected on his breakout season. The 20-year-old Brit is preparing to make his debut at the Next Gen Finals and looks to be the heir to Andy Murray’s throne in British tennis, with the man himself predicting big things for Draper over the next 18 months.

Draper will make his debut at the Next Gen Finals next week, a tournament famous for breeding talent with Alcaraz the defending champion while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner have won the 21-and-under event in the past. The 20-year-old qualified following an impressive breakthrough season that saw him rise from No 265 in the world to a career-high of No 45.

While he still remains an unknown name in tennis compared to his fellow ‘next gens’ Alcaraz and Holger Rune, that may not remain the case for much longer as Murray predicts the Sutton native will be “right up at the top of the game in the next 18 months.” And Draper himself believes he is getting closer after a recent clash with the world No 1.

The British No 3 took Alcaraz to three sets when they met in the first round of the Swiss Indoors last week and was able to break the US Open champion when he first served for the match before succumbing 3-6 6-2 7-5. Reflecting on the match, Draper told the Daily Mail: “You can build these guys up in your mind to be incredible players and, don’t get me wrong, Alcaraz is an amazing player, he’s world No 1 for a reason.

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“But the experience of playing these guys has shown me I’m not that far off. That’s the biggest lesson of this year, plus the things I need to get right, maybe start being more aggressive and physically getting stronger.” With Draper rising a staggering 220 places in the rankings this season, many will expect the Brit to continue his rise in 2023.

Thanks to his new top 50 ranking, Draper will be able to gain direct entry into most of the biggest tournaments on the ATP calendar to help him keep climbing up, and he could be left unable to take public transport to tournaments after catching the tube and then the Eurostar to get to the recent Paris Masters. “Nobody recognised me so it’s quite good that no-one knows who I am for now – maybe they will when I do something bigger,” he said.

Something bigger looks to be on the horizon for Draper, who started the year by winning four Challenger titles and has gone on to reach his maiden semi-final at ATP Tour level, also making the quarter-finals of the Montreal Masters. Looking back on his rise, the 20-year-old said: “A year ago I was at a club in Germany playing a Challenger level event, trying to grind my way up and I’ve now been able to play on big stages.

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“There would definitely have been an element of surprise back then if you had told me that I would be top 50 in the world. This is exactly what I wanted since I was younger, to come out and play these types of players at this level and have crowds like this, so you know you’re able to deal with that stuff.”

“I remember playing Gael Monfils in Montreal (this summer) and it was similar because they get behind French players there. I played Alcaraz in front of 10,000 people in Basel last week, and it was a great experience.” He will have another new experience in the off-season to prepare for a bigger and better 2023 season, with a “monster” training block in Florida planned. But before that he will end his season at the Next Gen Finals as he bids to follow in the footsteps of Alcaraz and Tsitsipas.

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