Emma Raducanu and Jack Draper will be involved in scraps with the respective top seeds in the Californian desert on Tuesday night, and it is not over optimistic to venture that this is the shape of things to come.
Regardless of what happens, the past week has provided the strongest evidence to date that the broadly underperforming British game has thrown up not one, but two gems who are going to be doing battle with the best players.
Overnight UK time Raducanu will take on Iga Swiatek, the Pole who has established herself as the one truly outstanding performer in the women’s game since Serena Williams faded away.
Raducanu, outstanding in dismissing the feisty Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia to make the last sixteen at Indian Wells, is more a known quantity than Draper.
There was a hint of watershed about his 7-6 6-2 victory over Andy Murray, with added poignancy that this was a first win against a player he has always looked up to, and who continues to defy medical prognosis with his metal hip.
Jack Draper faces Spain’s US Open champion and top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the fourth round
Emma Raducanu saw off Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia to set up a meeting with Iga Swiatek
The two were born less than eleven months apart and, although they are bonded by similar age and an uncommon talent, their backgrounds are very different.
Raducanu has no tennis in her family lineage, while Draper was always destined to play the game. His father Roger is the one-time Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association and his mother Nicky a coach and formerly an excellent junior player.
In fact, among the cognoscenti of the British game, 21-year-old Draper has been on the radar long than his female counterpart. It was only her extraordinary summer of 2021 that propelled her fame a long way ahead of his.
Another thing they have in common is a tendency to suffer repeated minor injuries which have held them back, and they both arrived in southern California not having played since the Australian Open.
Their three wins apiece since landing there have been a reminder of the rich potential each possess and – assuming they can add more physical resilience – it will not be long before they are mixing it with the very best on a regular basis.
The 21-year-old left-hander has long been on the radar among the cognoscenti in British tennis
Andy Murray was beaten 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 by compatriot Draper at the BNP Paribas Open
Swiatek lies in wait for Raducanu after her 6-3 7-6 (7-1) victory over Canada’s Bianca Andreescu
Draper takes on world number two Carlos Alcaraz (top seed in the absence of the barred Novak Djokovic) and the brilliant Spanish teenager could expect a proper test.
As a 6′ 4″ lefthander the assumption might be that the Draper game is led by his serve, but he has far more than that. Aside from having an excellent return his backhand is clean and efficient while his forehand has heavy spin on it.
The strength of his baseline game stems from the fact that when his method was being honed as a youngster he was relatively diminutive in stature – prior to a sudden growth spurt later in his teens – and needed to scrap away for points.
The serve has actually been more a work in progress and could gain more consistency and accuracy, but it was telling that against Murray he won a high percentage of second serve points – 68.
As Murray has generously observed, he still has plenty of improvement in him: ‘I think he’s going to be a top, top player for a long time, providing he stays healthy,’ said the 35 year-old Scot.
Both Raducanu and Draper have long endured injury problems and both came into the tournament without playing since the Australian Open
It is always a big moment for a young player when they first overcome someone they idolised. Murray has spoken of how significant it was when he, in turn, gained an initial victory over Tim Henman.
A sign of how much defeating Murray meant to Draper was him giving the Scot a big bear hug at the net: ‘I’ve looked up to Andy since I was so young. I watched him win Wimbledon for the first time in 2013 and then I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him and practise with him often,’ said Draper. ‘He’s a really special person, a great champion, and I’m privileged to play against him.’
Amid the excitement over two younger players it should not be overlooked that Cam Norrie, due to play sixth seed Andrey Rublev on Tuesday night, has long since overhauled Murray as GB men’s number one.
A measure of his admirable consistency is that he was going into the match against the Russian having won 20 times on tour already this year, the second highest aggregate for anyone in 2022 behind Daniil Medvedev.