Jack Draper has grand ambitions for 2024 after falling short in Sofia Open final

Jack Draper set his sights on qualifying for the ATP Finals next season after narrowly failing to pick up a first tour title at the Sofia Open.

The 21-year-old was the youngest British player to reach an ATP Tour decider since Andy Murray in 2009 but he was unable to find a way past wily French veteran Adrian Mannarino.

Mannarino, 35, has been in excellent form and one break in the deciding set proved enough for him to secure a 7-6 (6) 2-6 6-3 victory in the Bulgarian capital.

But this week has been another reminder that, if fit, Draper can be a force at the top of the game and he believes he could be among the leading eight players in the world in 2024.

Citing the swift rise of last year’s Sofia runner-up Holger Rune, he told reporters in Bulgaria: “Hopefully that’s the same for me. Obviously I’m disappointed I lost in the final but I’ll keep working and hopefully I do well next year and can be in Turin.”

Draper dropped serve in the opening game but hit back straight away and there was nothing to choose between the pair until the first point against serve at 6-6 in the tie-break.

Jack Draper in action during the final in Sofia
Jack Draper in action during the final in Sofia (Valentina Petrova/AP)

The powerful Englishman found the perfect response with a break at the start of the second set and looked to be in the ascendancy going into the third.

But Mannarino began to apply some consistent pressure to his serve and a break for 4-2 proved the crucial moment, with Draper unable to convert two chances in the final game.

It has nevertheless been an excellent week for the young Londoner, who was on a nine-match winning streak after lifting a title on the second tier Challenger Tour last week in Bergamo.

“I think there wasn’t much to it to be honest,” said Draper. “It was a really tight first set. Adrian’s obviously played a lot of matches this year. He’s having a great season. And fair play to him. I guess sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and today wasn’t my day.”

Jack Draper strikes a forehand
Jack Draper strikes a forehand (Valentina Petrova/AP)

Draper’s rapid progress has stalled this season because of injury, notably a shoulder problem that caused him to miss Wimbledon, but he believes he used the time away wisely.

“I feel so motivated to want to work so hard every match for every point and compete well,” he said. “And I think with the time I’ve missed off the court, that really helps me coming on to the court, because I haven’t been able to have the opportunity to play as many events.

“I just had a long hard look at myself. I felt like there wasn’t much that I’d done wrong. Watching lots of the tennis was really difficult and seeing my ranking drop.

“But I went straight back to it, worked really hard on my physical state and worked hard mentally to get myself back in a position that, when I was fit, I was able to perform at the highest level again and be better than I was. I’m just proud of the way I’ve come back after such a tough year.”

Draper is next set to be in action in Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Serbia in Malaga later this month, where it would be a big surprise if he was not given the nod as the second singles player.