By Ossian Shine
LONDON (Reuters) – After five straight first round defeats Jay Clarke finally tasted victory on Tuesday at Wimbledon of all places, and the lowly ranked Briton’s reward will be the biggest day of his tennis life so far.
The 20-year-old from Derby in England’s midlands beat American qualifier Noah Rubin — despite squandering six match points — and will face 20-times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the second round.
“I know how tough Noah is to play. I’ve seen him play a lot of the same challengers as me,” Clarke told reporters after his 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-4 win.
“To beat him would have been a good win. I’d have been happy with that. (Federer) was a bit of extra motivation to get through.”
Clarke cracked 37 clean winners in the first-round match, but in truth his route to the second round was largely aided by the whopping 58 unforced errors which flew from Rubin’s racket.
He knows his next opponent won’t be anywhere near as profligate. And he knows the mountain he will need to climb.
“Obviously I’ve watched a lot of him (Federer) growing up, so it’s not like there’s going to be any surprises on what he does,” the Briton told reporters.
“He won juniors the year I was born. I always looked up to him. Tried to copy a lot of the stuff he does.
“It’s going to be a fun match. Like I said, no real surprises. Like, I know what to expect. I’ve seen him play a lot. I just need to get ready for it.”
Ranked 169th in the world, wildcard Clarke could be forgiven for adopting a nothing-to-lose attitude to the match. But the youngster is having none of it.
“Obviously on Centre Court, you could be embarrassed. He could obviously kill any player like he did today from a set down. That’s never nice,” Clarke said after Federer beat South African Lloyd Harris 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-2.
“I’ll go out there and I’ll just play my game. That’s the best test to actually see where I’m at. If I start doing stuff I don’t normally do, then I wouldn’t really learn anything.
“I’ll always try to do what I do, maybe a bit higher tempo or a bit bigger serving in certain moments. I’ll stick to the way I play and then just see how it goes.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)