Djokovic reveals Wimbledon rival's father wanted him to be British

Filed on June 28, 2021
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the men's singles match against Britain's Jack Draper on day one of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. — AP

When Djokovic was in his teens, approaches were made to tempt him to play for Britain

Defending champion Novak Djokovic revealed Monday that the father of his vanquished Wimbledon opponent Jack Draper once attempted to persuade him to switch allegiance from Serbia to Britain.

World number one Djokovic, bidding for a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, claimed a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over the 253rd-ranked Draper.

Roger Draper, the father of the 19-year-old wildcard, was once the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (2006-13) which governs the sport in the UK.

When Djokovic was in his teens, approaches were made to tempt him to play for Britain.

“I don’t know who at that time was discussing the potential citizenship for me with my dad, because my dad and my mom, they were discussing with people from LTA,” said Djokovic.

“I was surprised with what I read about Jack’s father. Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting information.

“It was a very long time ago. Yeah, we did get an offer. There was some discussions, but it was very short because I and my parents did not want to move from Serbia, even though it was very challenging economically to sustain a career of a professional player.”

Djokovic is bidding to become just the third man in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam.

It’s a feat so rare that Rod Laver was the last man to achieve the sweep back in 1969.

On Monday, as Wimbledon returned after its 2020 cancellation due to the pandemic, the 34-year-old struggled on the slippery Centre Court surface with the roof closed above it due to rain.

Left-handed Draper, playing just his fifth match on the main tour, saved seven of seven break points in the opener as he stunned the top seed.

But Djokovic soon snuffed out any danger of him becoming only the third defending champion to lose in the first round, by sweeping through the remainder of the tie.

He finished with an impressive 25 aces and 47 winners as his teenage opponent wilted.

“I think I probably had one of the best serving performances that I can recall on any surface,” said Djokovic.

“I could not be more pleased with the rhythm of my serve. On grass, the quickest surface in our sport, it helps a lot getting a lot of free points on that first serve.”

Djokovic will face either former runner-up Kevin Anderson or Chilean qualifier Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera for a place in the last 32.

The champion had encouraging words for Draper who grew up just six miles (9.5km) down the road from the All England Club.

“Obviously I think I raised the quality and the level of my tennis in the second set. I felt like I had things under control,” said the Serb.

“But nevertheless, he had a crowd behind him. I think he’s got an all-around game really. A very good flat backhand, also a good forehand. Maybe his movement could improve I think.

“But he’s still young. There’s always room for improvement. But he’s got a very good base, I would say.”

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