Paul Reaches Queen’s Club Last Four, Ends Draper Winning Streak At 7

Tommy Paul (photo: Luke Walker/Getty Images for LTA)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, June 21, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Tommy Paul loves to play grass court tennis. The American No. 2 (ranked 13th in the world) came to the Queen’s Club in West London armored and prepared for a battle against British No. 1 Jack Draper at the cinch Championships on Friday.

By the end of the two-hour, one-minute Centre Court tussle, it was Paul’s aggressiveness style that wore down the 31st-ranked Draper and ended the 22-year-old’s seven-match winning streak.

Paul battled through the fast conditions by relying on a flat groundstroke attack that rewarded him with a hard-fought but entertaining 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory. It was Paul’s second win against Draper in five career meetings. His previous win against the Brit came back in January at the Australian Open in four sets.

“I played some good tennis and I really like the grass. I knew today was going to be a battle,” Paul said in his on-court interview. “It is never easy against Jack. He has been playing such good tennis. So, I am really happy to get through that one.”

After winning his first ATP Tour title at Stuttgart last Sunday on grass, Draper extended his winning streak at home with solid wins over No. 29 Mariano Navone of Argentina and World No. 2 and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, the defending champion. Draper had not dropped a set this week before facing Paul, who compiled 30 winners to 14 unforced errors and outpointed Draper 90-86.

Paul gave props to Draper in defeat. He said: “His serve is not fun to deal with. He plays very aggressively. He takes you off your game. For me, the key was to play my game. I thought I did a pretty good job today.”

The fifth seed Paul improved to 25-10 on the season – advancing to his fifth semifinal – and he’s through to his second career semifinal on grass. Paul’s previous best result on grass came last year when he lost to Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina in the Eastbourne final.

In Saturday’s semifinal round, Paul will meet fellow American Sebastian Korda, ranked No. 23, who advanced to the Queen’s Club semifinals for the second year in a row after defeating 98th-ranked Australian qualifier Rinky Hijikata, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4, in two hours and 11 minutes, behind 30 winners – including six aces – and four breaks of his opponent’s serve. He outpointed Hijikata 103-92, which included winning 23 points at the net.

A week ago, Korda beat Paul, 6-4, 6-2, on grass at s’Hertogenbosch.

“Tommy is an incredible player,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “He’s super athletic and he plays really well on grass. I beat him last week but that doesn’t really mean anything going into tomorrow. It’s going to be a good match, that’s for sure.”

Thompson upsets highest-remaining seed Fritz

Unseeded Jordan Thompson of Australia reached his fifth ATP Tour semifinal on grass – and seventh semifinal overall – following his 6-4, 6-3 take down of No. 4 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, who was the highest remaining seed among the eight quarterfinalists.

The 43rd-ranked Thompson, who earlier eliminated No. 7 seed Holger Rune of Denmark to end a five-match losing streak and advanced past five-time Queen’s Club champion Andy Murray by retirement, converted three of 10 break points — including in the final game of the 79-minute match on Centre Court. He did not face a break point against the World No. 12 Fritz.

On Saturday, Thompson will face No. 30 Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who ended the impressive run of 162nd-ranked British wild card Billy Harris, 6-2, 7-5, in an hour and 39 minutes to reach his second straight grass court semifinal.

Musetti hit 20 winners and made just six unforced errors in advancing to the semifinals for the second straight week following his run to the last four in Stuttgart.

The 29-year-old Harris was competing in his first tour-level quarterfinal. Following earlier upsets against No. 32 Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina and No. 67 Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard of France, Harris has moved up 23 spots to No. 139 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings.

Around the Queen’s Club

Taylor Fritz and Karen Khachanov, both singles stars, have been starring in the doubles draw this week. On Friday, the eighth-seeded American/Russian duo, teaming for the first time, continued their surprising run by upsetting top seeds Rohan Bopanna of India and Matthew Ebden of Australia, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3) to advance to the semifinals. They will face No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

Also, No. 7 seeds Neal Skupski of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand upset No. 2 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6). In the last four, Skupski and Venus will face defending champions and this year’s No. 4 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States.

Friday’s cinch Championships results

Saturday’s cinch Championships order of play

By the numbers

Lorenzo Musetti of Italy is through to his 11th ATP Tour semifinal – and second on grass after reaching his first grass semifinal in Stuttgart last week. He’s 10-1 versus players ranked outside the Top 20 on grass since the start of 2023 season.

“Quotable …”

“Of course it’s tough to deal with the losses, but I think it’s part of our lives. We have to [deal with it] as good as you can. After the losses, you have to take the positive things and of course the negative things just to improve to the next tournament. …

“Right now, I’m hungry just to be better, to practice, and that’s all I have to do,” he said. “I’m really excited to start Wimbledon. Of course, I really want to win every title that I [play for], and I think Wimbledon is even more special. So, as I said, I have time, and excited to start the first match on Centre Court.”

— World No. 2 and top seed Carlos Alcaraz, from his post-match news conference after being upset by British No. 1 Jack Draper in Thursday’s second round.