Jack Draper ran out of steam in a New York “sauna” to lose his slugfest with Andrey Rublev – and end British interest in the US Open singles. But on the American holiday of Labor Day, Draper made the Russian No 8 seed work for his win. And the injury-hit British No 5 later claimed: “I think I can go all the way in this sport.”
Draper recovered from losing the first set to level the match – and then led by a break in the third to get Rublev rattled. Yet the relentless rallies took their toll on the 21-year-old who had not completed an ATP Tour-level match since May because of a shoulder injury.
And Rublev deservedly reached his ninth Grand Slam quarter-final by winning 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-3 in two hours and 45 minutes. “From the first ball it was really physical with him,” said Draper. “I need more match exposure at this high level to be able to come to these tournaments and feel like I can really cope.
“I can train in a different way now. I can train with more intensity. I can remember that match when I was knackered at the end of it and I need to do more.” With the roof on Louis Armstrong Stadium closed because of light rain, Draper complained: “It was like a sauna. My shorts were drenched after four games.
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“It’s kinda weird. The air con was on and its really humid. You are playing against a guy who is tough to get the ball past.” The big left-hander won 78 per cent of points on his first serve but only 36 per cent on his second compared to 84 per cent and 66 per cent by Rublev.
He saved six break points in the second set before drawing the match level as the angry Russian saw red and he briefly went up by a break in the third but he was beaten by the better player. After missing so much tennis this year, Draper has the consolation of returning to world No 105 on the live rankings and the former world No 38 will go much, much higher if he can stay fit.
Draper, who said he would be available for next week’s Davis Cup matches in Manchester if selected, said: “If I stay fit, I’ve proved it to myself then there is no reason why I can’t be one of the top players in the world, I do believe that.
“It’s not my tennis which holding me back, it’s my physicality and being able to staying on court consistently. Once I do that I think I will prove to myself I will be able to be one of the best players in the world.
“My tennis is right there. I’ve barely played in the last couple of months and I’ve come here, made fourth round and pushed a top-10 player today. If I just can get things right, still be being able to compete and train, I think I can go all the way in this sport, 100 per cent.”