England's Jubb: NCAA title for South Carolina to Wimbledon
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Paul Jubb chatted with Andy Murray. He ate in the vicinity of childhood idol Rafael Nadal. So Jubb's first Wimbledon already has been quite a memorable experience for the 19-year-old Englishman who won an NCAA singles championship for South Carolina.
"I was like, 'That's literally the guy I used to beg for every outfit he was wearing in a Grand Slam,'" Jubb said of noticing Nadal at a nearby table during lunch. "And I was just like, 'Now I'm in the same tournament as him.' It's just very, very weird."
Jubb's back story has gained plenty of attention in Britain in the lead-up to Wimbledon: He reportedly was orphaned at a young age and raised by his grandmother.
"Tennis is just the vehicle that he's using to mature and create a family environment around him. Ultimately, that is so healthy when it comes to the game," said South Carolina tennis coach Josh Goffi, whose father coached John and Patrick McEnroe at his tennis academy decades ago. "There are so many crazies out there that put pressure on kids. He has a fire inside of him that is undeterrable."
Jubb won his college title in May and, thanks to a wild-card entry, will be the first man to play at the All England Club right after becoming the NCAA champ since Tim Mayotte in 1981, according to the ATP.
It's been quite a recent run for Jubb, including a victory over a top-100 player, Andrey Rublev, while qualifying for an ATP tournament at Eastbourne last week.
"Things are coming very fast for him, right now, and for everybody around him," Goffi said. "We're trying to pump the breaks for him, in terms of: Let's keep things in perspective."
Jubb said that while he grew up a fan of Nadal's — "Just loved his energy on the court" — he now models his game after another superstar, Novak Djokovic.
"He's a poor man's Novak," Goffi said. "He just gives you body punches over and over and over. And you don't know how you lost, but you have. He's relentless. He backs you in a corner without you even knowing."
Jubb is scheduled to face 30-year-old Joao Sousa of Portugal, a former top-30 player now ranked in the 60s, in the first round Tuesday.
"I've always had a belief, or just felt something inside me, like I can go on to do good things in the sport. I've just always had that hunger and desire to be the best that I can," Jubb said. "Just (as) the years (have) gone by, and the more success I've had, it's just become more and more a reality that I can do it and hopefully get here one day."
Defending champion Angelique Kerber arrived at the All England Club on Sunday, a day after a runner-up finish at Eastbourne.
She'll play on Centre Court on Tuesday, beginning what she hopes will be a lengthy stay in a rough section of that draw that includes three other past Wimbledon champions, including Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Kerber beat Williams in last year's final for her third major trophy. To her, Wimbledon is unlike any other place.
"Here, you feel a completely different energy," said Kerber, who is seeded fifth. "When you come here, you have pressure. The nerves are much higher than usual."
OSAKA JUST FINE AT NO. 2
It's absolutely fine with Naomi Osaka that she is seeded No. 2 at Wimbledon after recently ceding the top ranking to Ash Barty.
Osaka became the first Japanese player to be ranked No. 1, climbing that high after winning Grand Slam titles at last year's U.S. Open and this year's Australian Open. But in her first major tournament leading the seedings, the French Open, she lost in the third round.
"I mean, mentally, it was way more stress and pressure than I could have imagined," Osaka said. "I don't think there was anything that could have prepared me for that, especially since I'm kind of an overthinker. So, yeah, I think it's better for me now."
Wimbledon will be the last tournament in the career of Marcos Baghdatis, a 34-year-old from Cyprus who was the runner-up to Roger Federer at the Australian Open in 2006 and lost to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals at the All England Club later that year.
He decided to retire because his body has been breaking down over the past couple of seasons — and because his wife is expecting their third child in November.
"For me, there is life after tennis," said Baghdatis, whose voiced choked on his words while he spoke to reporters Sunday. "And I enjoyed this long journey so much."
On Tuesday, he faces Brayden Schnur, a Canadian who lost in qualifying but got into the field when someone else withdrew.
And Baghdatis expects there to be tears.
"I'm here to play and try to win, also. I mean, win as many matches as I can and go out and to give everything on the court and to fight, like my life was," Baghdatis said. "I've been working hard the last six weeks for this event. Only for this event. I think it's going to be very emotional."