Paul Jubb admits the company he is keeping these days feels a bit surreal.
The 19-year-old, who grew up on a Hull council estate, has been preparing for his Wimbledon debut by hitting on the All England Club courts and sharing the same facilities with his idols.
“I was sat having lunch with my coach and (Rafael) Nadal was just down there,” he said.
“I was like, ‘that’s literally a guy I used to beg for every outfit he was wearing in a grand slam’. Now I’m in the same tournament as him. It’s just very, very weird.”
Nadal was Jubb’s childhood favourite but he has modelled his game on Novak Djokovic, with the teenager’s athletic abilities clear from a very young age.
“Growing up I was obsessed with Rafa,” said Jubb. “I didn’t like any other player, if anyone beat Rafa I was very, very unhappy.
“I remember when he lost in the French Open to (Robin) Soderling there were a few tears. The older I’ve got the more I’ve started to base my game around Novak so it changed a little bit because Novak’s more relatable I feel now.”
Jubb has not yet met Djokovic but has had brief chats with Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray.
“Andy came and introduced himself to me, which was really nice,” he said. “I was warming up and he just came along.
“I think we take it for granted a little bit now we’re around him so much but just what a guy and what a player he’s been for the sport. He just congratulated me on my recent success and said good luck.”
The recent success that has catapulted him from a little-known prospect to the most talked about teenager in British tennis began just over a month ago when he won the National Collegiate Athletic Association title – the pinnacle of the prestigious American college system.
That earned him wild cards into a number of British grass-court warm-up events and he took his chance, winning his first matches at second-tier Challenger level and then, last weekend, beating Denis Istomin and Andrey Rublev to qualify for his maiden ATP tournament in Eastbourne.
There have been none of the usual grumblings about whether a British wild card recipient deserves his opportunity, and the only frustration for Jubb is that he will not be able to claim most of the £45,000 in prize money that is the minimum players in the main draw are entitled to.
With the final year of his degree at the University of South Carolina to complete, Jubb must stay amateur, meaning he can only claim expenses, and he is having to keep track of his outgoings with the All England Club.
Much has been made of Jubb’s modest background, and the courts he grew up playing on at Pelican Park in Hull could hardly be further removed from Wimbledon, but he never felt the rarefied lawns were not for him.
“I had a belief, just felt something inside me that I can go on to do good things in the sport,” he said. “I’ve always had that hunger and desire to be the best I can.
“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. Obviously still the goal is to be able to play this tournament without the wild card.”
If Jubb is to go further than the first round, he will need to take the biggest scalp of his fledgling career on Tuesday having been drawn against experienced Portuguese player Joao Sousa, ranked 66.
“Hopefully it’s a match I can sink my teeth into and make it gritty and compete really hard,” said Jubb.
“Obviously there’s going to be nerves. I’m nervous before every match like everyone is. But more so to try and show what I can do. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I do every time I go on the court no matter who it’s against or where it is.”