Jack Draper the last Briton standing in Eastbourne after cruising past compatriot Ryan Peniston

·7 min read
Jack Draper the last Briton standing in Eastbourne after cruising past compatriot Ryan Peniston - GETTY IMAGES
Jack Draper the last Briton standing in Eastbourne after cruising past compatriot Ryan Peniston - GETTY IMAGES

Jack Draper is now the only Briton left standing at Eastbourne, after he reached his first ever tour-level semi-final on Thursday.

Draper, 20, made this week the best run of his career with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-3 win over compatriot Ryan Peniston.

With Peniston out, and Cameron Norrie and Harriet Dart also losing their respective quarterfinals, Draper is the last British player in the draw of what has been a very successful tournament for the home players.

Draper rises to at least 94th in the world through his run this week, a career-high. For a place in the final he will face Maxime Cressy - an American who favours old school serving and volleying, which helped him knock out both Dan Evans and Norrie in previous rounds.

The drawback with doing well at Eastbourne is that it inevitably means less time to prepare for Wimbledon, but Draper said he was focusing on the tournament at hand.

"There is no doubt that, obviously, if you go deep this week it is going to have a bit of a knock‑on effect for Wimbledon, but at the same time my mindset is not to get to Wimbledon, it is to try and do as well as I can here, and we'll worry about being tired after the tournament," he said.

"But in a positive way I get a lot of matches, I've obviously gained a lot of confidence this week which I can take into future tournaments and I am not thinking about that just yet, I've just got to see how I do the next couple of days."

Peniston, 26, was not strong enough for Draper and perhaps felt somewhat fatigued after having to finish his last-16 tie ahead of the match on Thursday morning. But the past fortnight has also been the best of his career. At Queen's and Eastbourne - his first two tour-level events - Peniston reached the last-eight, and has jumped from 180th in the world to within the top 150.

Ryan Peniston has had a superb couple of weeks - GETTY IMAGES
Ryan Peniston has had a superb couple of weeks - GETTY IMAGES

It is a similar story for Dart. Despite falling 6-3, 6-4 to reinvigorated former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Thursday, the British No 2 has been given a nice boost during her time in Eastbourne too. She has broken back into the top 100 ahead of Wimbledon to 95th - a career high.

Meanwhile British No 1 Norrie has recorded just one win on grass all season, although after his tight 7-5, 7-5 loss to Cressy  he insisted it had been a "perfect" preparation for Wimbledon.

"It would be nice to win the title here, I have not won a title on the grass. That's obviously a little bit disappointing, but I came here to find some couple of matches and I really enjoyed it. So it was perfect, exactly what I needed, and going back to London right now, and I just get ready for Wimby obviously."

At Wimbledon, there will be 14 Britons competing in the main draw in singles, after standout performances during the grass-court season - including Peniston's - earned a number of players wildcards.

Draper rides British wave to reach quarter-finals

By Molly McElwee

Jack Draper rides British wave at Eastbourne to reach quarter-finals - GETTY IMAGES
Jack Draper rides British wave at Eastbourne to reach quarter-finals - GETTY IMAGES

Young British talent Jack Draper reached his second tour-level quarter-final of his career and capped it off with an unwelcome present from a seagull at Eastbourne.

Draper's 7-5, 7-6 win over world No 15 Diego Schwartzman was the second-best of his career based on ranking, and saw him reach the last-eight in what was another busy day for the Britons at Eastbourne. But upon celebrating the victory, during a post-match interview by the court, some bird droppings splattered onto his wrist. “I’ve just been pooed on by a bird," he said, laughing. "Is that good luck?”

It is no wonder Draper, 20, could see the positives. Ranked just outside the top 100, he has been notching up some decent results on the grass, punching well above his weight. Draper reached the last-16 at Queen's, after beating Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz, and his latest upset over Schwartzman was impressive too.

After suffering from a few nerves while serving for the match, Draper recovered to play a clinical tiebreak to clinch the victory. He said his recent progress is partly due to muting the fiery side of his character, which was prone to over-boiling during his junior career.

"When I was a junior and just starting in the pros I was very up and down with my emotions," he said. "I’d be on a bit of a rollercoaster and therefore it’s tougher to stay in the moment. As you go up the levels playing against someone like Diego, these top players, they don’t give you those second chances. So it’s got to be up to me to make the difference.

"I want to be a top player in the world so I know I’m going to have to deal with all these emotions and pressures. But I feel like the only pressure I can put on myself is in my own head. So as long as I keep doing the right things and improving then that’s all I can do."

There was also a double victory for compatriot Harriet Dart, who made it two wins in one day to reach the last-eight. Dart's second-round match against Switzerland's Jil Teichmann was suspended on Tuesday due to poor light, and so she was forced to see out the decider on Wednesday morning, before then jumping back on the court to face Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk in the next round.

It turned into quite the battle, but Dart saw it out 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. It was another impressive win for Dart, who is ranked 103rd in the world and also reached the quarter-finals at the Nottingham Open earlier this month. She will play former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova next, who ousted Briton Katie Boulter.

Harriet Dart won two matches on Wednesday - GETTY IMAGES
Harriet Dart won two matches on Wednesday - GETTY IMAGES

It was a mixed day of results for the home talent otherwise. Jodie Burrage finally bowed out of Eastbourne after a valiant run to the last-16 which saw her beat world No 3 Paula Badosa. She was well-beaten by the most in-form grass player of the moment, Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is on a 12-match winning streak. Dan Evans lost to American Maxime Cressey in straight sets, who will face British No 1 Cam Norrie in the last-eight.

Norrie received a bye to the last-16, so finally scored his first win on grass this year with a dominant display against American Brandon Nakashima on Wednesday. Ryan Peniston's match was suspended due to poor light in the deciding set against Pedro Martinez.

This past week in Eastbourne has been one of the most successful for the Britons in recent memory as seven players reached the last-16 across the men's and women's singles. Considering the two biggest stars of British tennis, Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu, had to skip competitive play this week due to respective abdominal injuries, the rest of the pack have risen to the challenge and it bodes well for their chances on the grass at Wimbledon next week.

The British success in Eastbourne has only been upstaged by 23-time major champion Serena Williams making her long-awaited comeback to competitive tennis. She secured her second win of the week on Wednesday to reach the doubles semi-finals at Devonshire Park with partner Ons Jabeur.

She and Jabeur looked much more in sync than they had in the first round, and it was a drama-free, straightforward 6-2, 6-4 victory over doubles specialists Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Taiwan's Chan Hao-ching. They face Magda Linette and Aleksandra Krunic next.

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