Jack Draper finds positives despite humbling by Hurkacz at Madrid Open

Jack Draper finds positives despite humbling by Hurkacz at Madrid Open

For most of this season, when Jack Draper has faced off against elite opponents, those matches have played out as long, tight battles. Even when the 22-year-old has lost, he has usually offered a full demonstration of his talent.

Draper’s time at the Madrid Open this year, however, ended with unusual haste on Friday as his poor serving was punished by a spectacular Hubert Hurkacz, the eighth seed, who rolled through to reach the third round with a 6-1, 7-5 win.

“I didn’t serve as well, that was the main thing, really,” said Draper. “If I played him 10 times and served at 43% [first serves in], you’re probably going to lose every time. I think also you’ve got to acknowledge that he played extremely well today.”

Draper entered Madrid at an interesting point in his young career. While he has struggled badly with injuries over the past two years on the tour, he has performed well whenever healthy and maintained a decent ranking.

But now that he has finally been able to play a full schedule and remain healthy in recent months, he is learning how much of a challenge it is to consistently perform at the highest level. Currently ranked No 43, he has compiled a 7-7 record since ­February. Before this tournament, Draper pointed out all of his defeats had been in three sets, a reflection of how fine the margins have been for him.

This time, Draper was caught cold by an excellent Hurkacz, who burst out of the gates firing down service winners and playing ultra-aggressive tennis off both wings. Draper, meanwhile, served terribly. By 0-5, he had landed just 33% of first serves and he struggled badly to hit through the court, his spin-heavy forehand rising up into the hitting zone of Hurkacz.

Draper handled himself far better in the second set, increasing his intensity and finding his own huge lefty first serve. But Hurkacz possesses the best serve in the world, a devastating, precise delivery, and the pressure to keep on hold of your own serve is immense. It took just one nervous service game from Draper at 5-5 in set two for Hurkacz to take the decisive break and seal the victory.

Just 30 minutes after this loss, he maintained an impressive perspective even in his disappointment. He noted that he was never really an ATP Tour player over the past few years, given all of his injuries, and he considers this year his first full season.

“This year is the first time I’m playing top-10 players, top-20 players week in, week out. Also not being seeded at these tournaments, you have a decent first-round win and then you have to play a Hurkacz or a [Taylor] Fritz, or someone who is a top, top player.

“I think all these matches are good for me, just learning more. I’m definitely gaining more experience as a player. Even a match like today, I can draw more from it.”

skip past newsletter promotion

One of the first lessons that Draper has come to understand in recent months is that, when you are healthy, every tournament week presents a new opportunity. He will return home to London and rest for a few days, but the Italian Open in Rome will soon begin, another chance to find his feet against the best players in the world.

“I’m very privileged to be in the position I am, I’m in a great head-space,” he said. “Not injured, which is the main thing – being able to play. I’ve been on the other side of it where it’s like I can’t play Wimbledon, can’t do this, can’t do that. I’d much rather have the opportunity to come here each week, see what it’s all about and work hard to win these matches.”

Katie Boulter plays a shot during her defeat by Robin MontgomeryView image in fullscreen

Katie Boulter suffered a brutal 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat by Robin Montgomery, a wildcard, in her first ever WTA main draw match on clay. Aryna Sabalenka and Carlos Alcaraz, both defending champions and second seeds, began their title defences with victories. Sabalenka narrowly edged past Magda Linette 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a third-round meeting with Montgomery, while Alcaraz effortlessly defeated Alexander Shevchenko 6-2, 6-1 to reach the third round in Madrid.