It is time for Jack Draper to fulfil his immense potential

Jack Draper serves - It is time for Jack Draper to fulfil his immense potential
Jack Draper has to overcome the impostor syndrome that holds him back - Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images

What a wash-out this red-clay season has been for the home contingent. Since we left Miami behind in early April, 10 Britons have amassed just 12 tour wins between them – two fewer than world No 1 Iga Swiatek has managed on her own.

And so, as the caravan moves on to Sunday’s French Open, it falls to Telegraph Sport to seek positives amid the wreckage. Given that nobody has reached a tour semi-final since the beginning of March, let us plump for something that happened offstage: Jack Draper’s recruitment of a “supercoach”.

Wayne Ferreira – a former world No 6 from South Africa – might not be a household name in the manner of Ivan Lendl or Boris Becker, but he reached a couple of major semi-finals and developed a reputation for giant-killing.

Then, after a post-retirement break from the tour, Ferreira signed up to coach the gifted yet unpredictable Frances Tiafoe. The results were dramatic, as Tiafoe surged 70-odd places up the rankings ladder to break the top 10, peaking with a memorable run at the US Open.

Wayne Ferreira at Wimbledon in 2000
The hope is that Wayne Ferreira, a former top-six player, can do for Draper what Ivan Lendl did for Andy Murray - Russell Cheyne for The Telegraph

The hope is that Ferreira can catalyse Draper’s career – which has thus far interspersed periods of graft with frustrating injury setbacks – in a similar manner. No pressure, Wayne, but what with Andy Murray winding down and Emma Raducanu becoming a part-timer, we need someone to throw us a bone here.

Thus far in his short career, Draper has been tennis’s answer to that dog from the Sherlock Holmes story: the one which did not bark in the night. In both cases, you should have noticed them, but you have not (unless you are the sort of committed fan who follows live-scoring from Bogotá).

Still only 22, Draper is regularly tipped for a top-10 spot, most often by the Russian star Andrey Rublev, who is impressed with his swinging lefty serve. His CV includes a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and a set taken off Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. And yet we are still waiting for the breakthrough: an ATP title, perhaps, or a deep run at a major.

With any luck, this is where Ferreira comes in. His primary job will be to rid Draper of the impostor syndrome that keeps him stuck in retrieval mode, chasing shadows at the back of the court. “You’re a big guy,” Ferreira needs to say, “so play like one.”

For a man blessed with a powerful attacking game, Draper ends up on defence far too often. This is a hangover from his junior days. Skinny and undersized, he used to wear opponents down through sheer attrition.

A dramatic growth spurt in his late teens changed everything. His new 6ft 4in frame allowed him to bang that serve down at 130 mph or more, and swat forehand winners up the line with an apparently telescopic arm.

Draper whips a forehand
Ferreira's priority will be persuading Draper to exploit his physical advantages - Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

But those highlight-reel shots usually come when Draper is on the run, so that the only option is to gamble. Leave him in the middle of the court, and he will patiently trade groundstrokes until kingdom come.

This is a reliable tactic against average opponents, and Draper rarely loses to anyone ranked below No 50. The flip-side is that he has not beaten a top-tenner since the late summer of 2022. For a guy who can make the ball zip past you like a yellow laserbeam, he really ought to be scaring more people.

“Jack needs to take more risks,” says Nick Brown, the commentator and former Davis Cup player. “He can play too conservatively, especially when a match is at the critical moments. But I’m encouraged by the Ferreira appointment. It means he’s looking to learn, to try new things out.”

For the moment, Ferreira is working alongside Draper’s existing coach James Trotman – who is employed by the Lawn Tennis Association – but his arrival could well lead to further shake-ups down the road. Thus far, he and Draper have only spent a couple of events together, in Rome and Geneva, with little to show but a lone victory over a rusty Borna Coric. Backstage, though, the early vibes have been encouraging.

“It seems like he really believes in my tennis and believes that I’m really only at 50 to 60 per cent of my capacity as a player and there’s so many improvements to be made,” Draper told an interviewer in Rome. “Which is what me and my coach know anyway, but it’s sometimes nice to have a different opinion and someone who really knows tennis to come in and dissect and look at things in a different manner.”

Perhaps Ferreira can fulfil the same role for Draper that Lendl did for Andy Murray, who also hung back too much in the early years of his career. Perhaps he can be the man who says “Shoot first, ask questions later.”

As for next week’s French Open, the draw has not been particularly kind to Draper. He will start against a qualifier, but the second round is likely to throw up a meeting with bookies’ favourite Carlos Alcaraz.

Still what an opportunity for Draper to make a name for himself, against a man who has been struggling with a forearm strain. It is about time that we heard his bark – and saw his bite as well.