Draper reached the fourth round of the US Open in September – the best Grand Slam finish of his career to date
A last-16 US Open finish and a first ATP Tour final have made 2023 Jack Draper’s most successful year of his young career so far.
But for the 21-year-old Briton, success has been tinged by sadness with his grandmother Brenda – a former tennis player and coach – unable to recognise his achievements.
Draper’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that causes dementia and the gradual decline of cognitive functioning in the brain.
Draper, the latest ‘Sports Champion’ to join the Alzheimer’s Society in hope of raising awareness of the condition, described it as a “cruel disease” which has had a “devastating” effect on his family.
“As a former tennis player and coach who worked with many top national players, it was devastating for me and my family to see my grandmother’s condition deteriorate,” said Draper.
“Nana was one of my biggest supporters growing up and I have always been very close to her, but this is a disease which completely takes away the person you knew.
“My Pa, who is Nana’s main carer, still brings her to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton to watch me train, but she doesn’t know who I am. And if my tennis matches are on TV, he will tell Nana it’s me but it doesn’t register with her anymore.
“This is probably the saddest part for me and my family, that she no longer recognises or is able to communicate with us. Nana was a huge supporter of my tennis, and I wish she could see and appreciate all the things I’ve achieved so far as I know she would be very proud of me.”
Jack Draper and his grandmother
One in three people born in the UK today will go on to develop dementia, which has been described as the country’s biggest killer.
Draper’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, aged 70, six years before his debut on the ATP Tour.
Draper is ranked 61 in the ATP’s rankings after a year in which he secured a career-best last-16 US Open finish and suffered defeat by Adrian Mannarino in his first ATP Tour final last month.
He says his grandmother’s experience has inspired him to want to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
“In the midst of what is a very sad and difficult time, you have to try to find moments of laughter and cherish them. Nana, in the early to mid stages of the disease, was able to communicate, sing songs and recite rhymes,” said Draper.
“At times, she was funny and we laughed a lot. However, 10 years on she can’t do any of this, but if she sees a baby or a young child, she will still smile – which lets us all know that while her brain isn’t there anymore, she will always be there at heart.
“I personally know how horrendous this disease is and the impact it has on not only the person diagnosed, but also family, friends and carers. It’s why I have decided to support Alzheimer’s Society, as I am passionate about finding a cure so we can finally bring an end to the devastation caused by dementia.”