British tennis star Jack Draper may have had one of the best seasons of his career in 2023, but the youngster was also tinged by sadness due to his grandmother not being able to recognize his achievements.
The 21-year old's grandmother has Alzheimer's disease, a condition that causes dementia and the gradual decline of cognitive functioning in the brain. Draper, who recently became an advocate for the Alzheimer's Society in an attempt to raise awareness, described it as a "cruel disease" that had a "devastating" effect on his family.
Draper heartbroken at grandmother's condition as she no longer recognizes him
"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.
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"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 recognizes 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."
Draper's grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2015, aged 70, six years before his debut on the ATP Tour. After battling with several injuries, the World No.61 reached a career-best round of 16 at the 2023 US Open, in addition to competing in his first ATP Tour final in Sofia last month, where he lost to Adrian Mannarino.