Jack Draper was forced to retire from the third round of the US Open against Karen Khachanov, the 27th seed, with the Russian leading 6-3, 4-6, 6-5. Despite recovering from a set down and pushing on to lead the match, the 20-year-old suffered an injury to his upper right hamstring in the third set, leading to his retirement.
“I think there are a lot of positives I can take from the match but I think the main thing is that I still need to improve my body,” he said. “My body is just not ready to go really deep in this tournament. Today at this time it’s broken down on me. That’s the reality of it. I just need to keep on improving.”
Draper was in the third round of a grand slam tournament for the first time after startling straight-sets victories against Emil Rusuuvuori, then Félix Auger Aliassime, the sixth seed. Draper started slowly here, losing his opening service game and then quickly falling down a set and a break.
But he fought hard, first retrieving the break and then establishing himself at the top of the baseline. He finished the second set in control, sweeping to the net and finishing off the set with a sweet forehand volley.
Draper broke serve for a 2-0 lead in the third set but in the subsequent game he pulled a muscle between his groin and hamstring while stretching for a forehand. The injury became progressively worse as the set endured and, despite serving for the third set, he was forced to retire. “I’ve had to make a lot of these types of decisions in the last three years,” said Draper. “I think I know when I can keep pushing and keep going, [when] it’s not going to get any worse. Obviously something like this just, yeah, it gets worse,” said Draper.
Throughout his short career injuries have constantly determined Draper’s trajectory and his success has been down to the physical work he has done to handle the strains of professional tennis.
“I think all there is is just trying to get my body more robust,” he said. “I’ve come such a long way with that, I think. Miami last year I couldn’t manage a set at this level. Now I’m able to play five sets. I’ve got a lot of experiences yet to come and a lot of work to do but I’ve come such a long way and I don’t think I can be getting down about that.”
Despite his obvious disappointment Draper was upbeat and spoke maturely as he reflected on his progress after his first grand slam third round. He will break into the top 50 for the first time in his career when the new rankings are published after this tournament.
“I can be very positive about the year I’ve had so far as well,” he said. “When I look back in probably 2020 I was thinking about stopping tennis during Covid. So to think I’m here now and I’ve broken the top 50 this week, I’m very proud of myself.”