Jack Draper was told “he had a very bright future” by Alex De Minaur who ended the 20-year-old home favourite’s bid to reach the third round of Wimbledon at the second attempt.
Jack’s a hell of a competitor. A hell of a talent. He’s got a very bright future in front of him. Alex De Minaur
De Minaur – nicknamed ‘the Demon’ – spooked Draper 7-5 6-7 6-2 6-3 over 3hr.2min deep into the evening on No.1 Court.
But the amiable 19th-seeded Australian – who faces Brit Liam Broady in the next round – proved the ultimate diplomat post-match, perhaps in an attempt to avoid a Brit Basher tag being attached to him.
His first words when asked about his win over wild card Draper were in praise of his girlfriend up in his guest box, Katie Boulter who had earlier stunned last year’s finalist Karolina Pliskova on Centre Court.
He said: “Before we talk about my match, can we just talk about Katie Boulter today? She had a pretty good win herself!
“I’m extremely psyched to get this win. It was a battle out there. Jack’s a hell of a competitor. A hell of a talent. He’s got a very bright future in front of him. I. was most pleased with my attitude against him. Didn’t look too good at times there but I stayed tough, positive. Kept it together. Managed to play some great tennis.
“And playing Liam? If I get to play on these courts every day it’s an honour to play against any Brit. Just happy to be here. Looking forward to another test.”
Draper was hoping to be the fourth Brit to secure a singles victory on the day following the successes of Broady, Boulter and Heather Watson.
And to build on a promising start to his campaign at The Championships following his opening round victory – his first at the tournament, of course – against Zizou Bergs after reaching the Eastbourne semi-finals and lifting four Challenger titles this year.
The wild card took the bull by the horns in the opening game against Boulter’s beau De Minaur, breaking the Australian before opening up a 3-1 lead.
But the greater experience of De Minaur – bidding for his second appearance in the third round – paid off as he managed to level at 3-3 as both players went for it.
The 19th seed might only be 5ft.8n and of slight build but his hitting packed a punch as he traded shots with an opponent a full eight inches taller and built more like an outhouse with a serve to reflect his physique.
Draper was fearless as he went for the lines at almost every opportunity, but he was also happy to rally.
It was developing into an evenly matched contest with De Minaur compatriot Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, saying: “I haven’t seen a match of this quality at the tournament so far.”
It was attacking tennis all the way to entertain the No.1 Court crowd.
The last time Draper performed on a showcourt in London SW19 he took a set off six-time champion Novak Djokovic in 2021.
And the experience seemed to rub off as he broke De Minaur in the 11th game before serving out to repeat the start achieved against the Serb aiming to equal Pete Sampras’ magnificent seven title wins at the Championships.
But the fact Djokovic then put on the after-burners to sweep away the son of Roger Draper, the former LTA chief executive, might have played on his mind going into the second set.
The combatants maintained their level.
Two break points came and went for Draper in the seventh game of it before the Australian swept through the tiebreak without dropping a point to level the match.
And the momentum continued to swing in favour of De Minaur as he broke Draper twice in the third.
The world No.94 managed to pull one back but he was broken again before the Australian aced his way to a two-sets to one lead.
De Minaur might only be 23 but he has been around the block more than a few times against an opponent just coming up to the first corner.
And he continued to turn the screw in relentless, almost flawless fashion.
The physical demands of the encounter – including a series of energy-sapping, hard-hitting rallies – along with the Demon’s high level of tennis, tested Draper’s resolve. But Draper hung in there. The Brit attempted to shorten the points with a touch of serve and volley.
But the momentum continued to swing in the Australian’s favour.
Draper lost his serve in the third game of the fourth set but kept fighting before De Minaur clinched the win by breaking him once more.