Jack Draper suffered defeat in his maiden ATP Tour final on Saturday as Adrian Mannarino came through 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3 to win the Sofia Open. Aged just 21, Draper had already achieved a milestone this week – becoming the youngest British man to contest a final since Andy Murray back in 2009. But the experienced Frenchman was too much for the world No 82, as Mannarino lifted his fifth career title.
Taking to the court to contest his first-ever tour-level final, Draper made a sweet gesture as he allowed the young mascot at the net to help him pick a side for the coin toss. The 21-year-old was taking on Mannarino for the first time in an all-lefty affair.
It was a complete contrast in experience, with the 35-year-old Frenchman competing in his 15th career final and going for his third title of the year. Mannarino’s maturity showed early on as he broke Draper in the opening game. But the British No 4 responded immediately by breaking back to start on an even keel at 1-1.
The Brit had an opening with the second seed serving to stay in the set at 4-5 as he managed to get to deuce. But Mannarino denied him a look at a set point and they eventually went to a tiebreak. Draper was able to save a set point on his own serve but he finally succumbed to the 35-year-old and gave away the first mini-break.
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It allowed Mannarino to close out an hour-long first set 7-6(6). But the 21-year-old wasn’t deterred, as he struck first in the second set. Draper broke in the opening game with a stunning winner that flew straight past the world No 25. And the Brit kept on rolling, securing a double break before forcing a decider as he took the second set 6-2.
Given his years of experience on the tour, Mannarino stepped it up and barely dropped a point on his serve in the final set. Draper was in trouble when he was dragged to deuce at 2-3 and he hit his first double fault of the match, handing the second seed a break point. And Mannarino took full advantage, firing a forehand return winner straight past Draper.
The British No 5 suddenly had a lifeline with two break-back points as Mannarino served for the title. But he couldn’t make the most of the opportunity to stay in it as Mannarino managed to dig himself out of trouble. The 35-year-old received a time violation when he got back to deuce but it didn’t affect him, as he reeled off the next two points to be crowned the champion.
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It marks Mannarino’s third title of the year and his fifth overall. At the age of 35, he is enjoying his best-ever season and will now surpass his previous career-high ranking of No 22 in the world. With another Frenchman – Ugo Humbert – contesting the final in Metz later on Saturday, Mannarino must wait to see what the 25-year-old does to learn his fate in the standings.
If Humbert loses, Mannarino will end the year as the French No 1 and the 20th-ranked player in the world. But if his compatriot wins the Metz titie, Mannarino will be the French No 2 and the No 21 player in the world. As for Draper, the Brit will rise 21 spots in the rankings to No 61 on Monday.
The 21-year-old reached a career-high of No 38 at the start of the year but found himself sidelined by multiple injuries – most notably a shoulder issue that saw him miss the entire grass season. And Draper is full of form heading into Britain’s upcoming Davis Cup tie against Serbia, winning nine of his last 10 matches.
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