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Tennis-Draper defies odds as British old guard exit U.S. Open early

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By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Young Jack Draper has emerged as the unlikely hero of British men’s tennis at the U.S. Open this week, reaching the fourth round of the year’s final major as established names from his country crashed out.

The 21-year-old arrived in New York unsure if he could even complete one match after suffering a small tear in his shoulder that forced him to retire from the Winston-Salem tune-up event last week, a grim sign after an already injury-plagued season.

Instead, the 123rd-ranked Draper has defied the odds for his best showing at a major, as more familiar names like three-times Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, top Briton Cameron Norrie and Daniel Evans were sent packing before the second week.

“I’m not here just to, you know, be here and be happy to play,” he said. “I’m a competitor when I get into the matches.”

He recorded a shock straight sets win over 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round and overcame American wild card Michael Mmoh 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the third on Saturday, showing poise well beyond his experience.

“I’ve never won a four-set match before,” he told reporters after sending over 52 winners and 13 aces to beat Mmoh.

“It’s not been easy for me the last sort of year or two with the injury struggles I’ve had. I come into each tournament thinking, ‘Oh, am I going to hold up this week?’ Five sets is a bit different, and to do it at this level, I’m very pleased with myself.”

The victory was a full-circle moment for Draper, who had to retire in the third round at Flushing a year ago.

He faces an uphill battle in the fourth round against eighth seed Andrey Rublev, who has triumphed in both their previous meetings, after the Russian took down France’s Arthur Rinderknech 3-6 6-3 6-1 7-5.

“To come here a year on, despite maybe my ranking having dropped a fair bit because of the injuries and not being able to be on the same confidence level that I was last year, you know, I’m incredibly proud of that,” Draper told reporters. “And, hopefully, I can keep going this week.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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