19-year-old Jay Clarke is one of the most exciting prospects in British tennis. He is rapidly improving and so mature for a player of his age. In one year, Clarke has risen 170 spots in the world rankings. If he continues to work hard, the top 100 could well be within reach.
Earlier this week at the Surbiton Challenger, the British #5 was defeated in a close three set battle against Alex Bolt of Australia. I caught up with Clarke after that defeat and asked him about how he has found the transition form clay to grass.
“Tough, I had five days on grass after three months on clay.” The clay to grass transition is said to be the toughest in tennis by many players because the surfaces are on complete other ends of the spectrum and the movement is so different.
Jay Clarke already has some pedigree on grass with wins over Illya Marchenko and Alex De Minaur at the Illkey Challenger event last year. In addition to these wins, the 19-year-old came one set away from qualifying for Wimbledon 2017 before eventually being defeated by Austria’s Sebastian Ofner, despite having a two set lead. To put this win into perspective, Ofner reached the third round of the main draw, beating Jack Sock along the way.
Clarke did not have any specific goals for the grass court swing. “I’m not sure really, I just want to do my best.” In a way it is positive he is not putting a lot of pressure on himself results-wise in a part of the season where British players are often weighed down with expectation.
The World #224 also knows how tough the Challenger events on this surface are. “Everyone who chooses to play Challengers on grass are top fifty in the world on it.” Jay Clarke has already proven he can compete with and beat these players.
The 19-year-old also wants to keep a good relationship with his fast-growing fan base. Just before Surbiton, Clarke did a Q&A on his Twitter, smartly using the hashtag, “#QandJay.” I wanted to know where he saw himself in five years with which he replied, “Top 10.”
I asked Clarke where he sees himself in one year, he replied by saying, “That’s tough, hopefully top 100.” It is certainly possible for him to achieve this goal. He has managed to break into the top 250 in the world at such a young age with hard work and dedication–remember, he is still far from the finished article.
Jay Clarke has gone under the radar of many fans around the world but that does not bother him. He has worked in silence and is letting his success be the noise. The British #5 in a driven player who has his sights on the elite of the game. There is no reason why Jay Clarke cannot be a top 10 player one day.