Jack Draper is one win away from becoming the first British boys’ champion at Wimbledon for more than half a century after an epic semi-final victory over Colombia’s Nicolas Mejia.
While John Isner and Kevin Anderson continued to toil away on Centre Court, Draper finally prevailed 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (6/8) 19-17 after four hours and 23 minutes on his 10th match point. He will face top seed Tseng Chun-hsin in the final on Sunday.
The last British boy to reach the singles final was Liam Broady in 2011 but there has not been a home winner since 1962, when Stanley Matthews Jr, son of the famous footballer, defeated Alex Metreveli.
Jack Draper lunges for a backhand
Draper, the son of former Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger Draper, has been viewed as one of Britain’s brightest young talents for a number of years but this has been his breakthrough tournament on the international stage.
A left-hander with a powerful serve and heavy topspin forehand, the 16-year-old also showed his qualities as a fighter in the last two rounds by coming from a set down each time.
Both times he lost the opener on a tie-break but this time it was Draper who came out on top against his 18-year-old opponent, sealing it with an excellent second serve.
He might have moved ahead early in the second set before withstanding pressure to force a tie-break, where he created a first match point, only to narrowly miss a backhand down the line and then double fault to allow Mejia to level.
Liam Broady was the last British boy to reach the junior final at Wimbledon
The pair exchanged breaks at the start of the decider, and both players engaged in heated exchanges with the umpire over Hawk-Eye, but it was Draper who was looking the cooler overall.
He just could not finish off the match, though. He had chances across four separate Mejia service games without being able to convert, while the Colombian had five chances to break at 11-11, all of which were saved.
On and on they went, with Draper’s frustration growing as more glimpses of the finish line arrived before retreating into the distance. But, at 18-17, he smashed away a desperate Mejia lob before falling onto the grass in delight and exhaustion.
He must now try to recover in time for his clash with Tseng, who will play his third slam final of the year, on Sunday afternoon.