During the off-season, Baseline caught up with Jay Clarke as he opened up about the rough year he's putting behind him. After a 7-11 season, he could feel defeated, but instead the young Brit is looking forward to battling again on court to keep his dreams alive.

"2020 has been crazy," he says. "Not only for me as an athlete, obviously a lot of competitions have changed since. People lost their houses, jobs, and their loved ones."


After a pair of opening round losses to start 2020 (both to Blaz Kavcic), it seemed like the 22-year-old was beginning to gain some footing when he reached the semifinals of an ATP Challenger in Burnie, Australia. But COVID-19 had other plans.

The Derby, England native would compete at just one more tournament before the pandemic halted the tour in March. As if dealing with the uncertainty of the sport and the grim state of the world wasn't enough, Clarke was thrown yet another curve ball, a freak injury.


"It was a bit of a freak accident," he said. "I got hit by a cyclist. I knew it was bad, but then we went into lockdown literally two days after. So I had no idea how bad it was or anything."

The accident occurred just before England announced strict new measures in late March to help slow the spread of the virus. Clarke was aware his knee was not feeling 100 percent after colliding with the cyclist, but with the new restrictions, he wasn't able to get on court and couldn't tell how severe the injury was.

"It wasn't hurting in everyday life," he said. "But with the fast changes of direction and jumping and landing and stuff, I could feel it."

The long months of shutdown actually helped Clarke. He was able to recover, spend more time at home than he has in over a decade, and be there for his older sister and coach, Yasmin, as she welcomed her first child.


While faced with uncertainty, Clarke found a new appreciation for the game he has played since he was three years old.

"I think everybody realizes how much they love tennis, and love traveling, seeing the people you've been on tour with for so many years," he says. "The losses don't seem so bad when you don't get to play."

Feeling eager and excited to get back into competition mode, he's been working with his brother Curtis and sister Yasmin on taking his raw all-court game to the next level. In 2021, the world No. 187 is hoping to play a bigger game and control points with less hesitation.

While some pros may be wary of having family members in the coaching box, Clarke wouldn't have it any other way.

"I always accepted that even if the information is not right, it's always coming from a good place," he says. "So it's always been easy to take onboard and we're very open. So if I don't agree with it, I'll just say, I actually think this or we'll talk about it and it's pretty good like that."

Besides having Yasmin's guidance with certain technical aspects of his game, she also has an emotional connection with her little brother (he's eight years younger).

"My sister's always very understanding," he says. "I can't speak obviously for every female coach, but she's really good. She helps with my emotions and how it's OK to be nervous and stuff like this."

Female coaches are rare on tour, especially on the ATP side: Only two Top-100 male players had female coaches in 2020.

The Clarke family trio is currently working on building Jay's arsenal of weapons, so that he can better dictate points. He kicked off 2020 with a career high ranking at No. 154, but concluded the shortened season at No. 187. After the semifinal run in Bernie, he failed to win consecutive matches in his next eight events.

Having an already highly consistent game, Clarke believes his off-season preparations can lead him to crack the Top 100 next year.

"A lot of things I can do, but nothing is, I'd say amazing yet," he says. "So I've been working on building weapons. Because I think that's the best way to break inside the Top 100 is to have a slightly bigger game to control more of the points."

As Clarke discusses his on-court work, it's clear he's working on something less tangible: confidence.


Clarke's first event of the new season will be the Australian Open qualifying, which will be held in Doha. He's going to be ready with his theme song for 2021: "Eye of the Tiger".