Wimbledon 2019: Jack Draper - can 17-year-old prodigy unlock his true potential?

Jack Draper at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen's
Draper won three Futures titles after reaching the boys' final at Wimbledon last year

Jack Draper's metaphorical locker is jam-packed with every tool he needs to make it to the very top of men's tennis. By his own admission, he just needs the key to unlock it.

This is a player who oozes self-belief, one with a head on his shoulders far wiser than his 17 years suggest.

At Wimbledon 12 months ago, he was an unknown prodigy. "An excited guy coming onto the scene," as he puts it.

Yet over the course of the 10 days that followed, he demonstrated his potential as Britain's next great talent on the tennis court, the start of the next generation who grew up watching and wanting to be like Andy Murray.

He had few expectations going into SW19, yet came out as the runner-up in the boys' singles, losing in three sets to the then-junior world number one Tseng Chun-hsin.

Winning, he says, would have been "outrageous". "I think I surprised even myself by getting to the final," he tells BBC Sport.

Yet when Draper grew frustrated at his performances during his run to the final last year, his reactions told a familiar tale.

"What is wrong with my brain?" he shouted in the direction of his coaching team when he spurned his seventh match point in his semi-final. A racquet was the victim of one of his flashes of a temper in the final.

A British tennis player with some fire in his belly. Where have we seen that before?

"Some of the stuff I was doing was almost out of character for me," he says. "All the excitement I was showing on court, it's a learning process as to how to manage my emotions."

But in losing the final, many said it could prove a blessing in disguise for then-16-year-old Draper.

Since the open era began in 1968, only four players have won the boys' title at Wimbledon before going on to win it at the senior level - Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer.

In the women's game, only two have done the double; Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo.

But becoming a Wimbledon champion, at any level, brings with it a pressure like no other. Laura Robson was the last Briton to win a junior title on the Wimbledon grass but has never progressed past the fourth round in singles at any senior Grand Slam. Not that Draper is concerned, though.

"There is pressure being a young Brit because I have big shoes to fill in terms of Andy," says Draper.

"But I think the only pressure I feel is when I put it on myself, you can read into all the background noise but at the end of the day, it just comes down to the tennis and that is my priority.

"I think I surprised myself even by getting to the final, so to win the tournament would have been completely outrageous given my expectations.

"Even by making the final, people see you in a different light and expect bigger things from you, but I think those who win the junior slams and don't go on to win great things just haven't had great guidance around them.

"That's all part and parcel of reaching the top in the men's game and that is what separates the juniors from the seniors."

Jack Draper hits the ground in frustration
Draper says his displays of frustration at Wimbledon last year were "out of character"

American Scott Humphries won the Wimbledon boys' title in 1994 - beating Mark Philippoussis in the final - but injuries spurned his chances of making it to the top of the men's game.

He reached the Australian Open semi-finals with men's doubles partner Justin Gimelstob before going on to coach the likes of Mardy Fish and Jelena Jankovic, and is now a real estate agent.

"Being a British tennis player, there is a lot of pressure on Jack to do well, especially at Wimbledon," Humphries, 43, told BBC Sport.

"As long as he's got a good head on his shoulders and good people around him, and if he has the game to make that jump, then he will have a lot of opportunities to do so."

'I believe I can reach the top' - the next chapter

Not resting on his laurels, Draper immediately made the jump onto the senior circuit after his run to the boys' final last year. But it's been far from smooth sailing ever since.

It had started so well. Losing at the All England Club gave Draper's season the kick start it needed - he went on to win three Futures tournaments in five weeks in September and October.

The first of those, in Nottingham, saw him become the youngest British Futures winner since Murray 15 years previously.

"I had a really good transition into the men's game," says Draper, who benefits from being on the LTA's Pro Scholarship Programme alongside the likes of Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulter. "My confidence was sky high."

But in November, a "freak accident" saw him break a finger on his playing hand, ruling him out of action for two months. After getting over that, tendonitis struck in both his hip and his wrist.

"I think the problem was after I broke my finger and was off court, my body grew again," he says.

"It's been hard for my body to catch up with the demands of the tennis, especially at this point in my career and my age.

"It's been a tough six months, but I think I've learnt a lot about myself and my body. It's really important going forward that I use the heartache of being injured so much to fuel my fire."

He's certainly doing that. In June, Draper secured his maiden ATP Challenger win in the Nottingham first round having not played since April, while he was awarded a qualifying wildcard at Queen's but lost to Alexander Bublik in three sets.

He broke into the world top 1,000 after his Nottingham triumph last September and is currently ranked 508th, but Draper has his sights set on becoming one of the very best.

"I totally believe I can reach the top. I think in sport, in tennis, you can surprise yourself with the amount of work you put in and I definitely feel like I've got everything sitting there waiting to unlock," he says.

"I'm really excited for the future, obviously there will be ups and downs. I totally believe that I can go all the way."

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