20-year-old Jay Clarke overcame many obstacles to win the biggest title of his young career so far. The Briton defeated top seeded Australian, Jordan Thompson, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 after three hours of exceptional baseline tennis.
The Binghamton Challenger has proved to be a happy hunting ground for British tennis players in the last fifteen years and Jay Clarke becomes the third Brit in four years to claim the title here. Cameron Norrie was victorious at this tournament last year, as well as Kyle Edmund in 2015 and Andy Murray in 2005.
Jay Clarke has the aura of a top tennis player which is emphasised on his work ethic and ambition. When I interviewed him in June, Clarke told me that he wants to be ranked inside the top 100 in twelve months time. With his victory today, the Briton will climb fifty-two places in the rankings to 173 – new career high ranking.
Throughout the match, Clarke demonstrated his supreme levels of concentration and maturity. The 20-year-old should have claimed the first set after holding three break points at 5-5, but Thompson showed his experience and got out of jail. Clarke had a set point in the tiebreaker only for the Australian to come fighting back.
If the Briton was to win his first Challenger title he would have to come back against a man who was searching for his sixth. Most young players would find this too much to deal with, especially after having the opening set stolen from their hands, but Jay Clarke is a mental warrior. Clarke managed to break the Thompson serve for the first time but then the Australian returned the favour at the first time of asking, another set back for the Brit.
The Clarke forehand really started to become a make or break shot for him and he trusted it with great confidence, even though the errors started to creep in. The match appeared to be done and dusted when Thompson raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set tiebreak, however, Clarke dug deep and reeled off seven of the next eight points to force a deciding set. Mental strength kept him in the match as he trusted the forehand, and that got him out of those dangerous pressure moments.
In the end, the physical strength of Clarke is what got him over the finish line in the third set as Thompson wilted – all those hours of training on and off the court paid dividends. As soon as the 20-year-old secured the break he did not look back and converted his third championship point to win the biggest title of his career so far.
There is no doubt that this is not a flash in the pan and Jay Clarke will be victorious at many Challenger events in the remainder of the season and perhaps the opening weeks of 2019. The Next Gen Finals in Milan surely have to be on the Brit’s radar as he rises to 18th place in the Race to Milan.
The next stop for Jay Clarke will be the Lexington Challenger, where he is the seventh seed and one of the favourites for the title. A potential quarterfinal match-up with Dan Evans awaits which would certainly get British tennis fans excited. Despite the hype and media attention, Clarke will take it one match at a time as he looks to build on this momentum.
British tennis fans have seen so many of their best players breakthrough at the Binghamton Challenger and a certain 20-year-old has announced himself to the world at that same event. Enjoy Jay Clarke on the Challenger Tour for now, he will not be there for much longer as he continues to rise into the elite of the game.
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