British 19-year-old wildcard impressesd as he took the first set 6-4
The defending champion, however, moved through the gears to win in four sets in exactly two hours
The first match on Centre Court in two years turned into a crowd-pleaser with multiple standing ovations. The first was aimed at vaccine mastermind Professor Sarah Gilbert – a guest in the Royal Box – but the rest were largely for the benefit of Jack Draper, the British 19-year-old who made a stirring debut against world No1 Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic is at once Wimbledon’s defending champion and its champion elect, such is the quality of his strokeplay and the overwhelming expectation that he will go on to win this event. And yet Draper held him at bay for long enough to win the first set, saving seven out of seven break points along the way.
Previously best known for being the son of the former Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger Draper, the underdog coped with the biggest crowd that tennis has seen since the start of the pandemic and came up with some points to savour.
His backhand, in particular, delivered several laser-like winners so sweetly struck that even Djokovic had to stand and applaud.
Djokovic could afford to be magnanimous. He knew he would be able to choke off the supply of cheap points as soon as he got a read on Draper’s serve. And as the match wore on, he also began to land his own serve with the accuracy of a darts player, pinging down no fewer than 25 aces in the match without visible effort.
In the end, the only issue for Djokovic was the lush turf, which contributed to three or four heavy falls. But he is a hard man to disconcert, and eventually focused his steel trap of a mind to close out a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory in exactly two hours. Despite that dropped first set, there was never any real feeling of jeopardy.
“I don’t remember falling this many times on the court,” said Djokovic afterwards in what was a new Wimbledon departure: an on-court interview with host Lee McKenzie.
“Quite slippery. I don’t know whether that’s because the roof is closed or because it rained quite a bit in the last few days. Maybe I’ll work on my movement and slide a bit less because it doesn’t seem to be working on this surface.
“It feels great to be back, and seeing everyone on probably the most special, most sacred court in the world.”
ANALYSIS: The six key signs that suggest it will not be the last time we hear about the 19-year-old new kid on the block
By Simon Briggs
A natural on tennis’s grandest stage
Opening the Centre Court schedule after Wimbledon’s two-year hiatus was no small task. Okay, so this was business as usual for world No1 Novak Djokovic. But for No253 Jack Draper? A 19-year-old making his Wimbledon debut? How easily the occasion could have got on top of him.
So it is a pleasure to report that Draper – the brightest British hope to emerge in years– acquitted himself brilliantly. He stole the first set, showing as heart as big as his serve, and never gave up the fight even when Djokovic started pinging down aces like Pete Sampras.
Serving notice of a significant talent
Djokovic is the greatest returner in history, yet even he was flummoxed by Draper’s serve early on. It wasn’t only the power, which reached 126mph on one ace down the middle. Draper also disguises the direction nicely with his languid and elegant motion. Only in the second set did Djokovic begin to pick up a few clues from the ball-toss and put more returns back in play. From there, he accelerated to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory in two hours flat.
Yes, Draper still has more technical work to do here – especially on the second serve, which coughed up six double-faults. But the basics are solid. And there is no better starting point in this game than being a 6ft 3in, big-serving lefty.
A dog with plenty of mongrel
According to those who have watched Draper since he was a little lad, he has always been a right so-and-so on the court. In the very early days, you couldn’t necessarily trust his line-calling, nor even what the scoreboard at the side of the court might say.
“What a poor sport,” some might exclaim. But isn’t this part of being a top competitor? A desperation to win? Clearly, the young Draper grew out of any such chicanery a long time ago. But he is never going to be one of those nicey-nicey players who are more concerned with how they look than the eventual outcome. This dog has real mongrel in him, as he showed in the first set by saving seven out of seven break points. And that is all to the good.
Shades of Andy Murray off the backhand wing
When you’re a leftie, you hit a lot of backhands, because that’s where a right-hander’s natural angle takes the ball. Draper’s backhand stood up well, allowing him to trade with confidence against the classiest of opponents.
The forehand side is more of an issue. Draper is still working on the mechanics of the shot with his coach Ryan Jones. He started his tennis journey with a loopy forehand in the manner of Cameron Norrie’s, which he is now trying to make a little flatter and faster. That’s why most of the winners came from the backhand: a flat punch with plenty of feel, which offers faint echoes of Andy Murray’s double-hander. And Murray’s backhand, even now, remains one of the great shots of the 21st Century.
False steps on both sides of the net
In the interview room afterwards, Djokovic commended Draper for having a “very good base” to his all-round game, but added that “his movement could improve”. (In fact, this was true of both men, as the usually sure-footed Djokovic fell three or four times on the lush turf.)
When the point was put to Draper, half-an-hour later, he didn’t demur. “I definitely agree with Novak there,” he replied. “I think I’ll peak with my physicality at age maybe 22. My body has changed a lot over the last few years [thanks to a major growth spurt in his mid-teens]. It’s been quite tough for me. But I look to improve my serve, my forehand. I’ve got a lot of holes in my game still. It can still go a long way.”
.. but not ready for the big time just yet
The last few weeks have established that Draper thrives under pressure. This is rarer than you might think. If you’ve ever contested so much as a club doubles match, you’ll know how heavy the racket grows in the hand when you’re facing a break point. Now imagine that feeling multiplied a hundred times. There is no way of knowing how a person will react until they stand where Draper stood.
To succeed, though, a young hopeful must also be able to perform in Nowheresville in front of half-a-dozen dozing spectators. Even if Draper can expect the odd special entry into big tournaments, thanks to his status as a client of super-agency IMG, his staple diet over the next year is likely to be second-tier Futures and Challenger events.
“It’s very challenging, [but] I feel like my head is in a really good place,” he said last night. “The main thing is to stay healthy. If I can do that, I’m good enough to climb the rankings.”
As it happened…
Tennis fans come in many guises
Some may be described as overenthusiastic…
Novak Djokovic speaks…
On being back at Wimbledon…
“It feels great being back on the most sacred, special court in the world. I was sad last year that Wimbledon was cancelled but glad it’s back.”
On Jack Draper’s performance…
“He definitely deserved a round of applause. He played well at Queen’s, walking onto Centre Court for the first time he did very well, he backed himself and deserves a lot of credit.”
On trying to win his sixth Wimbledon…
“I’ll take it one day at a time, different to clay and Roland Garros.”
DJOKOVIC WINS 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
The world No.1 wins with three aces in a row. That finish sums up the imperious Djokovic who, once he got over his slow start, was at times unplayable, especially on his own serve.
In his first match at Wimbledon, on Centre Court, against one of the greatest ever Jack Draper was excellent and definitely one for the future – an exciting prospect.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 5-2 Draper (*denotes next server)
Great stuff from Draper. He was composed and clinical in that game holding to 15. It was important he made Djokovic serve out for the match.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 5-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Both players have slipped a number of time on this lush, grass court. It’s Djokovic’s turn this time. He fortunately gets up unhurt. Draper finds himself 0-30 up but Djokovic gets it back to 30-30. Draper once again refuses to give in and earns a lesser-seen break point off the world No.1’s serve. Alas Djkovic then sends down ace No. 21 and ace No.22 to hold.
Draper will now serve to stay in the match.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 4-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
The accuracy of Djokovic is something to behold. He only needs one break point to take his game, a wonderful backhand down the line winner.
The world No.1 has moved into another gear here and there’s little Draper can do.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 3-1 Draper*(*denotes next server)
Better from Draper in that he was able to not only take a point off the Djokovic serve but also play a brilliant backhand winner to then take it to 30-30. The world No.1 then put his foot down and takes the next two games to hold.
Did I say he was serving well?
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 2-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is now showing his full range of strokes – he’s moving around the court well having looked a bit cumbersome early on and plays a fine volley to go 0-15 up. But Draper isn’t overawed and plays a fine backhand winner of his own to get to 30-15. A slip off a Djokovic return means he is forced to save a break point and he does so in style playing the world No.1 wide before a volley gets him to deuce – fantastic stuff. Djokovic then moves the home hope out of position and earns another break point, which Draper saves with a backhand smash – the toughest shot in the game – so, so good! But Djokovic breaks two points later thanks to a fine return which Draper hits into the net.
That was a fine game that both players more than played their part in.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 1-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic sends down ace No.19 and No.20 in that game. It’s fair to say Draper is finding him unplayable on serve at the moment.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 0-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper holds to 15 – that was impressive. Whatever happens he has shown great touches and character this afternoon.
DJOKOVIC TAKES THE THIRD SET 6-2!! Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is hammering that centre line with his serve. It’s metronomic, such great accuracy from the world No.1 and he holds to love and take the third set 6-2.
After that first set the Serbian has looked ominously impressive.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 5-2 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper starts with an ace – always good to see. Then Djokovic shows what a glorious touch he has, coming into the net to play a lovely delicate volley to make it 15-30. Draper is managing to stay in rallies better at the moment and he comes out on top in a baseline battle to get it to 30-30. But an unforced error gifts the world No.1 a break point which he makes no mistake with. That’s a double break for the Serbian this set. He’ll be serving for the third set now.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 4-2 Draper* (*denotes next server)
It’s a bit deja-vu on Djokovic’s serve. He’s totally dominant on serve and Draper is struggling to win a point. The world No.1 wins to love. It’s all ominous for Draper.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 3-2 Draper (*denotes next server)
Jack Draper just has to settle down – he’s up against the best in the world and is doing well. He’s up 30-0 when a double fault prompts him to look downcast. He doesn’t look glum for long however as he wins the next two points to hold to 15 – that’s much better from the 19-year-old.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 3-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
The Djokovic serve is very under-rated – it’s another hold to love for the defending champion.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 2-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper’s again under pressure on his serve at 15-30. He gets two big first serves in to to get it to 40-30 but a long forehand makes it deuce. He has to take his chances and take risks but that is producing errors. Djokovic has the advantage in the long rallies and it’s one of those that see Djokovic get his latest break point. Djokovic takes the game after a complete mishit of a smash from the home hope and it’s what will probably be a decisive break for the world No.1.
Djokovic 4-6, 6-1, 1-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic’s first-serve percentage is 73 – that’s high and it’s not really giving Draper a chance to even sniff out a break. He again holds to love.
Djokovic* 4-6, 6-1, 0-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper is under pressure on his serve from the start. At 0-15 down he slips during a baseline rally with the world No.1 and it’s 0-30. The Briton gets it back to 30-30 before he wins a baseline battle, placing a backhand winner right in the corner to get it to 40-30. From there he holds impressively. If it wasn’t obvious before it is now – Draper is gutsy.
DJOKOVIC TAKES THE SECOND SET 6-1!! Djokovic 4-6, 6-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Draper his showing there’s more to his game at the moment that a big serve – he exchanges some fine groundstrokes with the world No.1 before an ace secures Djokovic the second set 6-1. That was a champion’s response.
Djokovic* 4-6, 5-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper’s serve has been under pressure but it is, so far, holding up against what Djokovic throws at it. Djokovic plays his first drop shot of the game and it wins him a point to get to 15-15 when he follows it up with a volleyed winner. A double fault from Draper, his fifth of the match so far, is followed up with a big first serve down the line – he’s showing real character out there. At deuce Djokovic plays a great crosscourt forehand winner for a break point and he achieves the double break the next point.
Djokovic 4-6, 4-1 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Draper just cannot get a foothold in Djokovic’s service games – the world No.1 is finding his feet and holds to love once again.
Djokovic* 4-6, 3-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
The world No.1 steps in on Draper’s serve and wins the first point. Draper then shows heart and guile to win the second point with a fine forehand. Djokovic is finding his angles and playing some good groundstrokes now but a slip allows Draper to get to 30-30. A serve down the line then gets the Briton to 40-30 and he holds serve with a big forehand smash.
How Draper took the first set against Djokovic
Djokovic 4-6, 3-0 Draper* (*denotes next server)
This is more like it from the 19-time slam winner – he’s been impressive on his serve (since he was broken) and again holds serve to love in double-quick time. Simple and effective from the world No.1.
Djokovic* 4-6, 2-0 Draper (*denotes next server)
Djokovic didn’t win one break point in the first set – he has one break point in Draper’s first service game in the second and a double fault ensures the world No.1 finally breaks the serve of the British wildcard.
Djokovic 4-6, 1-0 Draper* (*denotes next server)
For all Draper is playing well there are a high number of errors from Djokovic – a wayward backhand is so long, under no pressure as to draw gasps from the crowd. He makes no mistake the rest of the game to win it to 15. He had his chances in the first set and he’ll try take any chances he gets this set.
DRAPER WINS FIRST SET!! Djokovic* 4-6 Draper (*denotes next server)
The first point of the game is a cracker – the pair engage in a rally before Djokovic hints at coming to the net and Draper plays a delightful forehand winner. In all the big points so far – either on serve or returning – Draper has risen to the challenge. He has two set points and sends a booming serve which Djokovic can only return long. Wow, how good and gutsy was Draper. To be fair Djokovic hasn’t played badly but Draper was very impressive there. Nerves, what nerves?
Draper wins the first set 6-4.
Djokovic 4-5 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic has been racing through his service games and does so again winning to love in about the time it took me to type out this sentence.
Draper will now be serving for the first set – I didn’t think I’d be typing that line out 40 minutes ago.
Djokovic* 3-5 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper is again under pressure on his serve at 0-30 down. He then has a second serve which Djokovic deals with easily enough and the Briton now has three break points to save. He saves the first and then produces a fine second serve with a lot of spin to save the second (Djokovic going long with the return). He then saves the third – Djokovic has had six break points so far and converted none of them. At deuce there’s a long baseline rally during which Draper gives as good as he got before going long with a backhand. But a Draper ace then saves yet another break point. He produces another ace for advantage and then wins the game thanks to a forehand into the net from the world No.1.
Very impressive battling skills from the 19-year-old.
Djokovic 3-4 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic raced through that game to remind the 19-year-old that he is world No.1, 19-time grand slam winner and not to get ideas above his station, so to speak…
Djokovic* 2-4 Draper (*denotes next server)
The errors are now creeping into Draper’s game – a double fault and a wayward backhand gives Djokovic the early advantage and two break points. It’s an opportunity to get back on terms. Draper saves the first break point, then saves the next thanks in part to a huge first serve and in part to another slip from Djokovic. Djokovic then goes long and Draper sees out the game – from 15-40 down that was very impressive.
The defending champion
Djokovic 2-3 Draper* (*denotes next server)
There have been a number of unforced errors already creep into Djokovic’s game – it’s early days yet but it’s still a bit of a shock. He’s 0-15 down before some big first serves see him win four unanswered points.
Djokovic* 1-3 Draper (*denotes next server)
Draper gets to 30-0 before a double fault stops his momentum only for a bit, though, as a big booming serve gets him two service points. He’s looking assured at the moment – not overawed at all as Djokovic goes wide to make it 3-1 early on to the British wildcard.
Djokovic 1-2 Draper* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic was less than slick there. He hit a long forehand on the run, then a double fault, before Draper hits a great winner to give him two break points. The world No.1 saves the first with a volley, before another error gifts Draper a break. That’s something of a shock. Draper’s more than settled into this match.
Djokovic* 1-1 Draper (*denotes next server)
Great first serve from Draper which the world No.1 can only hit out long. That should settle some nerves. The Briton then engages Djokovic in a rally and again comes out on top – his strong backhand to the fore. At 30-15 there’s a brutal baseline battle – few beat the Serb in that manner and Draper goes long – he’s now under pressure at 30-30 on his serve. Djokovic moves Draper around the court in another baseline battle which gives him an early break point. He cannot capitalise as he slips and gives Draper and easy down-the-line winner for deuce.
Draper makes no mistake from then and wins his first game with a forehand smash – he’s in this match now.
Djokovic 1-0 Draper* (*denotes next server)
The grass always looks lovely on day one, before the sun (if it bothers to show up…) dries it out and makes it look slightly worn and bare…Djokovic also looks good during an easy opening service game which he wins to love. Brisk and business like.
Djokovic and Draper stroll onto the hallowed turf
Wonder what’s going through Jack Draper’s mind?
The last time Centre Court saw some action was when Djokovic beat Federer in that memorable final two year’s ago (while, at the same time England were beating New Zealand in an equally memorable (cricket World Cup final) at Lord’s… what a day of sport that was…).
The players are ready and about to walk out onto Centre Court
The crowd (those lucky ones who have got tickets, whose Wifi connections didn’t let them down in the scramble for access the All England Club) are full of voice and currently applauding key workers of the NHS , and one of the daughters of Captain Sir Tom Moore.
Jack is ready
“What an opportunity for me to play against the best player in the world. I’m definitely going to relish the opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it. To be on Wimbledon Centre Court opening the Championships with him is something that’s amazing.”
Draper would do well not to look at the roll of honour…
More on the wildcard
Let’s talk about Jack Draper
Welcome to Wimbledon, Jack!
Centre Court, first up against the world No.1…’Daunting’ doesn’t really do the task on the hands of the 19-year-old justice, does it?
Here are some facts about the British wildcard.
He’s the son of former Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger Draper.
Draper has already earned comparisons with the young Andy Murray. He has something of the same gangling energy on the court, as well as a similar build.
He won three $25,000 Futures events in Britain in 2019, which was a big deal for a 17-year-old.
In short, Draper is Britain’s best prospect since Andy Murray burst onto the scene back in 2005.
So let’s get this conversation out of the way early on…
Should Djokovic win his sixth Wimbledon crown he’ll move to 20 grand slam titles which is exactly the same number both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal possess. The debate about who is the best ever, for once and possibly for only a short time, wouldn’t be able to decided by a simple ‘let’s see how many medals you’ve got’ type approach.
Each of the three GOATS (yes, I know, they can’t all be GOATS but allow me that please, if only so I can placate their huge and vociferous fanbases…) can arguably claim they are the one, true greatest and have the fans who’ll make their case for them in forceful ways. But what fans of Fed and Rafa (me included) can no longer do is rubbish Djokovic’s claims.
Here’s our very Simon Briggs on the world No.1 and his claims to ultimate greatness.
“He has now taken on both Federer and Nadal in their own favourite houses – whether Centre Court or Court Philippe Chatrier – and beaten them at least twice. They, by contrast, have had to bow down to his superiority in his own manor: Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.”
World No.1 vs home hope and possible future star
World No.1 and possible greatest player of all time (more on that later) up against the hottest British prospect since a certain Andy Murray began to make a name for himself in 2005 is certainly a Wimbledon opener worth waiting for.
It’s been two years since Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in one of the all-time great matches (it was the first 12-12 final-set tie-break at Wimbledon and the longest final in SW19 history) and for you Wimbledon-starved fanatics the return of grass-court tennis is here.
Yes, it’s raining and among other cliches strawberries will be served with copious amounts of Pimms quaffed, but the action on Centre Court will provide a welcome reminder that this is the grand slam event they all want to do well at and win – a true sporting behemoth.
Since that final in 2019 Djokovic has cemented his position as the best on the planet. The famous win over Federer got him his 16th slam and he has since gone on to win another three with two of those coming this year. With the Australian Open (his ninth) and French Open (his second) titles already in his 2021 locker the Serbian has one thing on his mind – winning all four in the same year and becoming the first to do so since Rod Laver in 1969.
He may be a marmite character but there is little doubting his supreme ability and desire to finish his career as the undisputed No.1 – at least in terms of slam success.
He’s up against Draper today, a 19-year-old possible star in the making, whose booming left-handed serve helped him reach the quarter-finals of Queen’s two weeks’ ago. No one expects him to beat the world No.1 today but what most do expect is that the home hope – who is known for having a huge competitive streak – will prove an obdurate opponent for the main man this afternoon.
The players are due on court at 1.30 so stay here for the pre-match news and all the action.