The injury stopped Jack Draper on his way to the US Open, but the 20-year-old leaves New York more confident than ever about his future in tennis.
Draper looked well positioned for another big result at Flushing Meadows when he led 27th-seeded Karen Khachanov with a break in the third set of their third-round clash.
But he was starting to struggle with a thigh problem that continued to get worse and, after losing four consecutive games 6-3 4-6 6-5, Draper decided to call it quits.
He said, “It was just the top of my hamstring, the insertion between the hamstring and groin. I’ve had trouble with that before, and maybe this time it was just a lot of tennis that I played in the last seven weeks just a little bit about me.
“I think I did it 2-0 in the third. I went out on a large ball and felt a pang. I feel like, when you try something and it’s getting worse, there’s no turning back, really.
“Especially at this level, you can’t compete if you’re injured. It was hard”.
Draper, who will enter the top 50 at the end of the tournament, highlighted both the rapid progress he has made this season and his enormous potential by defeating sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round.
He started slowly against Khachanov, but he reversed the game well in the second set, his powerful serve and his baseline shots started to do some damage.
But it became clear that Draper was having physical problems when he took a medical suspension after five games in the third set and freaked out.
He won two games in a row in the second half, with Khachanov perhaps affected by the delay, but he failed to serve the set and pulled the plug shortly after.
Draper wasn’t too discouraged, though, saying, “I think there are a lot of positives I can take from the game, but I think the main thing is that I still need to improve my physique. My body isn’t ready to go really deep in this tournament.
“This is my second slam for merit. It’s very different to play five-set games. I beat a couple of really good players and felt like I was coming back today. I would have had a chance to win that game if I had been injury free.
“I can also be very positive about the year I have had so far. When I look back, I was thinking of stopping tennis during Covid. So, to think that I’m here now and broke the top 50 this week, I’m very proud of myself ”.
Draper, a late physical developer, had been disenchanted by the injuries and unattractive fatigue of the lower rungs of the tennis ladder, but is now leaping to the top of the game.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences where I’ve been injured and I’ve definitely had a lot of low moments in the past few years,” he said.
“I know the only way to do this is to keep your head up and stay positive, with your shoulders back and keep moving forward. There are a lot worse things happening in the world than getting injured in the third round of the US Open when I’m 20.
“I think the exciting thing is that I have so much way to go, I can improve so much. My game is probably at 60% of my capacity. I honestly believe it. I think I’m ready to do it, but it will just take time ”.
Draper expects to make a full recovery in two to three weeks, but that is likely to exclude him from the British Davis Cup campaign in Glasgow later this month.