FLUSHING MEADOWS – The curtain came down on British interest in the US Open singles as Jack Draper fell in the fourth round to quarter-final regular Andrey Rublev.
After defying his own expectations when reaching the second week of a grand slam for the first time, a shoulder injury having almost forced the British No 5 to withdraw before the tournament started, Draper was undone by the No 8 seed, losing 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
There is no shame in defeat for Draper, and the 21-year-old could yet replace Andy Murray in the Davis Cup group stage finals next week in Manchester. At the very least, Great Britain captain Leon Smith has hinted Draper could be added to his line-up, while Murray himself said his compatriot deserves to play ahead of him.
Rublev, meanwhile, still dreams of a first grand slam title on a stage that often produces maiden winners, including Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem in recent years, but he will have to overcome his quarter-final hoodoo first – although he should be buoyed by this dominant display on a stifling day in New York.
While frightfully aware that Draper may be too young to get the “it’s well hot… might be too hot” reference from The Inbetweeners Movie, he was aged nine when that came out, it was nevertheless a noticeably muggy Labor Day as players stepped out for work at Flushing Meadows.
Thermometers read 31C as Draper and Rublev made their way onto the Louis Armstrong Stadium, shortly after a surprising burst of rain, meaning the roof remained mercilessly on for this intriguing match-up.
A veritable bridesmaid of grand slam tennis, Rublev may be used to reaching quarter-finals but at eight attempts already he is yet to make a semi-final, including two failed tries this year at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Very much now a mental block, what Draper may have given to face Rublev a round later, therefore, although he took it to the Russian early on, earning a break point in a first game that featured five ferocious winners.
Rublev held, and though Draper looked in the mood with the majority of the crowd behind him, it was his opponent who broke first with a stunning backhand return.
The unforced-error count then started to grow as Draper looked to force his way back into the set, but Rublev’s level rarely dropped as he took it 6-3 in 36 minutes.
Draper was then forced to save four break points in the third game as the heat looked to be getting to both players. The Briton appeared to be pointing upwards, perhaps bemoaning the lack of air-con in an arena boasting just six slowly-moving fans, while Rublev struggled to keep his cool when that break opportunity passed him by after two tight calls.
Rublev then roared again when two double faults gifted Draper the break, and after the latter served out the set to level the match, the Briton went a break up in the third, a sign the momentum had truly shifted.
But someone didn’t tell Rublev, who somehow regained his composure, breaking back and doing so again to take the set, once more, 6-3.
And there was little resistance in the fourth, the conditions evidently taking their toll on Draper, who looked tired and ultimately second-best as Rublev broke in the fifth and wrapped up the win soon after.