Jack Draper hopes his physical problems are behind him as he prepares to make his French Open debut.
There is much excitement within British tennis and the wider game about the 21-year-old’s potential but so far in his professional career he has been off court as much as on it.
This year has been particularly frustrating, with illness disrupting his pre-season and then a niggling hip problem bothering him before an abdominal injury struck in Indian Wells in March after he had beaten British rivals Dan Evans and Andy Murray.
He returned in Monte Carlo in April but aggravated it and was not able to compete again until this week in Lyon.
The good news is Draper, who is currently ranked 60, found his groove straight away, beating Alexandre Muller and Miomir Kecmanovic before losing in three sets to in-form Francisco Cerundolo.
Draper is particularly pleased to have found what he believes is a solution to the nagging hip problem, with an injection relieving the pain he was experiencing.
“I basically had a lot of scar tissue in my hip that wasn’t going away,” he said. “And we couldn’t figure out what it was but we went and really looked at it and I’m on the right path with that now. So that has allowed me to get back on court and feel really good.
“I’ve not had many opportunities to play loads of slams, to play the four sets, five sets and all that sort of thing. I’m still waiting to find that confidence in my body. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my tennis but I feel like I need more time.
“I haven’t played at all for so many weeks and stuff. I don’t know what’s going to happen this week. I have no idea. But all I know is that I’ve done all the right things the last six weeks.
“The main thing now is, whatever happens after this week, to make sure that I’m consistently playing through to Wimbledon, after Wimbledon to the end of the year, because that’s when coming to these tournaments starts to become very normal and very comfortable.”
Draper hired Croatian fitness coach Dejan Vojnovic late last year to try to build up his robustness, and the former sprinter has had his charge doing a lot of running.
“It’s just lots of interval training most days,” said Draper. “He thinks that I’m in a great place with my body. It’s just sorting out all these niggles that I’ve had.
“We’ve put in a lot of work so far but it’s only been three months, four months. The more consistent that is over months, years, that’s when I become more complete.”
Having drawn Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in grand slams previously, Draper would have been happy to avoid a seed this time, although Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry is enjoying a good season and will certainly not be a pushover.
Draper is one of only three British players in the singles main draws in what has traditionally been the country’s least successful slam, but he has no hesitations about playing on clay.
“I don’t know a lot about him,” he said of Etcheverry. “Obviously he is Argentinian and obviously he has grown up on the clay. I feel pretty good, though.
“I played some good matches last week. In Monte Carlo as well, I played an Argentinian who was really good, so, actually, for someone who never really played on a clay court and being British, I feel pretty good on clay weirdly. So I don’t know about his game really. But I know that I’m confident.”
Two British players celebrated doubles titles on the ATP Tour on Saturday, with Joe Salisbury and American Rajeev Ram, who have struggled so far this season, lifting the trophy in Lyon and Jamie Murray and New Zealander Michael Venus claiming their third success of the season in Geneva.