Who is Jacob Fearnley? The Wimbledon wildcard facing Novak Djokovic

Jacob Fearnley plays the match of his life against Novak Djokovic  (Getty Images)
Jacob Fearnley plays the match of his life against Novak Djokovic (Getty Images)

Jacob Fearnley plays the match of his life as the 22-year-old British wildcard takes on seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.

Fearnley claimed his first ever win at a grand slam when he defeated Spain’s Alejandro Moro Canas in straight sets on Tuesday to reach the Wimbledon second round, setting up a clash with the 24-time grand slam champion Djokovic.

The match has been scheduled first on Centre Court, meaning Fearrley, who hails from Dalkeith, Edinburgh, joins Andy Murray and Jamie Murray in a Scottish takeover of Wimbledon on Thursday with the brothers playing doubles together later in the evening.

Fearnley admitted it is going to be “intimidating” to play an opponent like Djokovic on Centre Court but his first-round victory over Moro Canas ensures he has a “special” occasion to look forward to.

And 11 years on from watching Murray’s Wimbledon final victory over Djokovic on TV, Fearnley will be living his dream when he steps out on Centre Court.

Fearnley was born in Scotland in July and grew up in Dalkeith, just outside of Edinburgh. He was brought up by mum Samanthan and credits his late grandparents for getting him into tennis at the age of four or five as he first picked up a racket in their back garden. He went to Merchiston Castle all-boys boarding school in Edinburgh, where he began to develop as a junior tennis player.

Fearnley was a top-ranked junior and competed in the same ranks as Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner when he was 15, even claiming wins against two players who would go on to become grand slam champions. His reputation as a junior allowed Fearnley to hit with eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer at the Championships when he was 17.

“So I was playing the junior event [at Wimbledon],” he said. “ I think he went to some of the LTA coaches and was like, ‘are there any hitters?’ My name got put forward. That was really cool. I mean, he’s a super nice guy. Obviously a really, really special player. I learned a lot of things from those brief practice sessions. I was really grateful to have that opportunity.”

Instead of turning pro, Fearnley opted to go to college in the United States at Texas Christian University, the same college attended by former British No 1 and Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie. He described going the college route as “the best decision I ever made” and although injuries disrupted some of his progress at TCU he finished his five years there with the national championship.

Fearnley’s big breakthrough arrived on his return to the UK and the start of the grass-court season. As a qualifier, he defeated fellow British players Dan Evans, Billy Harris and  Charles Broom to win his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Nottingham, a result that earned him a wildcard for the Wimbledon main draw when he was initially hoping to just make qualifying. “It’s a bit crazy, for sure,” he said. “Obviously it’s come very unexpectedly.”

 (Getty Images for LTA)
(Getty Images for LTA)

Now ranked 277 in the world, Fearnley will take on Djokovic on Centre Court before his idol Andy Murray begins his Wimbledon farewell alongside brother Jamie in the doubles. Fearnley was “glued” to the TV two days before his 12th birthday in 2013 when Murray defeated Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and has always looked up to the two-time champion.

“He’s the best role model that a British tennis player can have, especially a Scottish player like myself,” he said. “I watched him growing up, the way he climbed up the rankings, the way he competes, the way he plays, it’s super special to see. I take a lot of what he does and try to implement it in my game.”

Now comes the challenge of facing the greatest of all time. “Yeah, it’s going to be a little bit intimidating, but it’s a match that I’m super excited for,” Fearnley said. “It’s the biggest match of my career so far. Just to be able to share the court with a player like that will be really special.

"I’ve watched so many videos of him. It doesn’t look like there’s many flaws in his game. I’m going to just try and enjoy it, put my game out on the court and see what happens. I don’t think there’s many tactics going into the match."