Couch to Centre Court - Fearnley eyes Djokovic shock

Jacob Fearnley clenches his fist during his first-round win at Wimbledon
Jacob Fearnley, ranked 277th in the world, faces second seed Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon [Getty Images]

A week before his 12th birthday, Jacob Fearnley sat on the sofa at home in Edinburgh, gripped by television coverage of the 2013 Wimbledon final.

The aspiring tennis player watched Scottish hero Andy Murray end Britain's 77-year wait for a men's singles champion - a huge moment of national sporting significance.

"I was glued to the couch. I didn't move," Fearnley recalls.

Now, 11 years later, Fearnley is preparing to step out on to Centre Court just as Murray did and face the same opponent - Novak Djokovic.

Fearnley, 22, was ranked outside of the world's top 500 a little more than a month ago.

But his stunning form has led to a plum tie against 24-time major champion Djokovic in the Wimbledon second round on Thursday.

"I've watched him on TV countless times. What he has done for the sport, the way he plays and what he’s been able to achieve is remarkable," says Fearnley, who is now 277th in the rankings.

"It will be daunting but more kind of weird to see him across the net. He’s definitely one of my idols.

"If I can play half of his level, I'll be happy."

Six weeks ago, Fearnley left Texas Christian University (TCU) in the USA with a degree in kinesiology - the study of human movement.

Now he is putting all his energy into his full-time tennis career.

"I always wanted to go to the States. I was always a bit physically underdeveloped and school was a big thing – my parents wanted me to have something to fall back on if tennis didn’t work," Fearnley says.

"I also didn’t feel ready mentally to play tennis.

"I wanted five years to develop my game, develop as a person, socialise and meet new people.

"I'm really happy I made that decision because it has really helped my tennis and me as a person."

Swapping university for studying Djokovic

After signing off from college with a team success for TCU in the NCAA National Championships, he headed home for the British grass-court season and has enjoyed the best results of his career on the professional circuit.

Fearnley won the Nottingham Open last month for his maiden title on the second-tier ATP Challenger Tour.

And then he was rewarded with a wildcard for the main draw at the All England Club.

He was back on dad Craig's sofa when Leon Smith, the head of British men's tennis, rang to tell him the good news.

"My dad didn’t believe me at first. It was a really cool moment," said Fearnley.

Things have got even more unbelievable since.

Fearnley said he "froze" watching Friday's draw as he realised he was one of three names left that could be pitted against Djokovic in the first round.

Instead, he was picked out to face Spanish qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas.

That left Czech qualifier Vit Kopriva facing Djokovic - but knowing he could potentially play one of the sport's all-time greats acted as motivation for Fearnley.

After beating Moro Canas, the British number 13 admitted to taking sneaky glances at the score in Djokovic's match.

"Playing Djokovic in the second round, after you’ve had a round to ease in, gives me a little bit more confidence and less nerves going into it," he said.

"How do I beat him? I don't think many people have the answer to that! I have no idea.

"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."