Jack Draper has warned he is a “completely different player” to the one who briefly stunned Novak Djokovic as he prepares to make a greater impact on his Wimbledon return.
Draper, the British No 4, heads to the All England Club buoyed by a fine run at Eastbourne, which was halted at the semi-final stage on Friday by an agonising loss to Maxime Cressy.
The 20-year-old took the opening set against eventual champion Djokovic on his Wimbledon debut last year before eventually succumbing to defeat. He believes he is in far better shape to progress deep into the championships on this occasion, partly due to lessons learned from his memorable Centre Court clash with the Serbian.
“My lead-up to playing Novak last year was very different to this year,” said Draper, who will face Belgian wildcard Zizou Bergs in the opening round. “This year I’ve been able to stay in form, my practice has been more consistent and I’ve been able to get a lot of matches in, whereas last year I was injured pretty much all the way up until Queen’s. And then, even when I was playing Djokovic, something was hurting 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 the Rothesay International brought a maiden ATP Tour semi-final. He was prevented from becoming the first British male to reach the singles final of Eastbourne after Cressy added to a list of British scalps already containing Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie by edging a tense encounter 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3.
The towering American will take on 2019 winner Taylor Fritz in Saturday’s final after he eliminated defending champion Alex de Minaur 6-1 6-7 (5) 6-3.
“He’s a very, very good player, it’s tough to get in your rhythm against him,” Draper said of Cressy. “He’s serve-volleying the whole time, you don’t get in many rallies, so when you do hit a ground stroke it seems a bit of a shock. It was a tough match and one break was all that was in it.”