Jack Draper’s winning streak ends but he will be seeded for Wimbledon

Jack Draper standing with his hands on his hips
Draper could not back up his stunning victory over Alcaraz - Shutterstock/TOLGA AKMEN

Jack Draper’s sequence of seven straight grass-court wins came to a downbeat end as he was eliminated from Queen’s by Tommy Paul, the American world No 13.

Yet this might not turn out to have been the worst outcome, as far as the wider picture of British tennis is concerned.

Draper is carrying heavy responsibility on his shoulders in the build-up to Wimbledon, after both Andy Murray and Dan Evans retired from Queen’s Club with injuries.

Having lifted his maiden title in Stuttgart on Sunday and then delivered a career-best win over defending champion Carlos Alcaraz on Thursday, he was full of confidence but clearly running low on fuel.

When you consider his workload over the past fortnight, it could yet prove more beneficial for him to regroup rather than push all the way to Sunday’s final.

“I felt like conditions were definitely a bit trickier today,” said Draper, who has been pursuing a much more aggressive style of play in recent weeks. “It was quite windy, quite swirly. It was tough to play the kind of tennis I wanted to play, but that’s just part of the game.

“I felt like I was having to really get myself going today, just maybe because the last couple of weeks were catching up with me a little bit. But credit to Tommy. He played a really good match.”

Despite producing some magnificent tennis in the middle set of his 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 defeat, Draper began to lose bite and accuracy on his serve in the third.

He tried to gee himself up, exhorting himself loudly and making clenched-fist salutes in the direction of his player box. But as the match continued to slip from his grasp, he eventually lost patience and expressed his frustration by whacking a loose ball out of the stadium, just as Paul was about to serve for victory.

A finalist at Eastbourne last year, Paul has a better feel for grass-court tennis than most of the Americans, and he seemed to cover every blade of this particular lawn.

Some of the rallies found both men shuttling back and forth while maintaining remarkable depth and pace on their groundstrokes. It is a tribute to how well Draper moves on this often slippery surface, despite being 6ft 4in, that he usually matched Paul stride for stride. But there was one late moment when he fell in the fresh grass at the side of the court, and everyone held their breath.

Draper: ‘I have to get used to going deep every week’

“Physically, I felt good,” said Draper after a match which lasted a fraction over two hours. “My body’s been great. It just becomes mentally quite taxing, having to go day after day. I finished Stuttgart on Sunday, and I got here very, very late on Sunday.

“Then training and then winning again on Tuesday. Obviously the match yesterday, it felt like there was quite a lot of energy and emotion invested in that. I was definitely having to pick myself up. I felt quite flat at times. I think that kind of showed in my decision-making at certain times in the match. I played a few more sloppy shots than I wanted to.

“But at the end of the day, if I want to be one of the best players in the world, then I have to keep on backing up my performances and get used to going deep every week.”

“I’m still young. I’m trying to piece a lot of things together. Obviously that was my first title last week. I have done it at Challenger level and Futures, but it’s very different on the main tour. Just need probably a bit more time.”

Draper had been entered to play Eastbourne next week, but he sensibly withdrew from that event after the Alcaraz victory, when it became clear that he has already accumulated plenty of tennis in the build-up to Wimbledon.

His efforts over the past fortnight will push him to a career high when the next rankings chart is published on Monday. The final stages of the two grass-court events at Queen’s and Halle will determine whether he stands at No29, 30 or 31, but whatever the outcome, he will be seeded at Wimbledon.

This is a big moment in his career: the first time he has stood among the 32 elite players at a major, and it will mean that he cannot face another seed until the third round.

“Originally I was going to play Eastbourne,” said Draper, “but obviously after being so busy and playing a lot of matches, it’s important now for me, especially being seeded at Wimbledon, to take a few days off to reset, recharge, make sure my body gets back to feeling pretty good.

“I’m a little bit sore and stuff from having gone day by day and day. I want to give myself the best chance to go deep at Wimbledon and play some really good tennis.

“Now I’m in a great place to do that. Have had a lot of matches and built a lot of confidence. Yeah, I’ll take a few days off and then start hitting at Wimbledon from Tuesday, Wednesday.”