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Although Alex de Minaur didn’t take out the Queen’s title on Sunday Night, his final appearance continued a history of success for Aussies at the tournament.

One of those occasions was 25 years ago when an unexpected Aussie took the crown.

That 96th edition of the Queen’s Club Championship in 1998 was a star-studded affair.

Reigning Wimbledon Champion Pete Sampras was top seed, with the big-serving Brit Greg Rusedski and Australia’s own Pat Rafter, who had won the US Open the previous year, rounding out the top three chances.

Pat was one of five Aussies among the 16 seeds including the Queen’s champion from 1997, Mark Philippoussis.

But it would be the unseeded Aussie Scott Draper who would turn out to be the unlikely champion in a wet and wild tournament.

Draper burst onto the world stage a few years earlier with his inspired fourth round run as a qualifier at the 1995 French Open.

In the three years that followed he would make the final of Adelaide and achieve a pair of Grand Slam fourth round appearances at the French Open 1996 and US Open 1997.

Despite those streaks of success, he had yet to win a title and had fallen outside the Top 100 when he arrived at Queen’s.

After taking out fellow Aussie Michael Tebbut in the round of 64, he would face world no.6 and reigning US Open champion, Pat Rafter.

In his biggest career win to date, he took out Australia’s best 4-6 7-5 6-4 to make the round of 16.

It would be in that round that the tournament would split wide open.

Aussie Mark Woodforde took out Pete Sampras in clinical fashion 6-3 6-2 while Greg Rusedski would be forced to retire to Italian qualifier Laurence Tieleman who had earlier taken out Jason Stoltenberg.

Also falling in the round would be fourth seed Jonas Bjorkman and the perennially dangerous Goran Ivanisevic.

Draper himself would take out 13th seed Kiwi Brett Steven and would next face American journeyman Doug Flach.

Flach had dispatched of 6th seed Karol Kucera and Australia's Todd Woodbridge en route to the quarter-finals.

Scott would squeeze past Doug in two tight tiebreakers to set up a meeting with fellow Aussie Mark Woodforde.

Woodforde had removed Thomas Enqvist in the quarters and was now the second highest ranked player left in the semi-finals, despite being no.66 in the world.

Draper surprisingly eased past Mark in comfortable fashion, 6-3 6-2.

In the final he would face the Italian qualifier Tieleman who had used his opportunity upon Rusedski’s retirement to see off two grass court experts in Tim Henman and Byron Black.

In a tight affair Scott would go on to score the biggest win of his career taking out the world no.235. 6-4 7-6.

The win saw his name said in the same breath as former Aussie winners such as Rod Laver, with Scott saying at the time that the comparisons were undeserved.

"It's flattering, but it doesn't fit," Draper said. "You're talking about a guy who is the greatest legend in international tennis, and I'm a no one.”

What was more impressive, was that he achieved the peak of his career while his wife Kellie was seriously ill with cystic fibrosis.

Just weeks earlier at the French Open, she was rushed to hospital but Scott still managed to play on during it all.

He told Australian Story in 2005:

"She was in extraordinary pain and we eventually got in a cab about 5:00am. We went to a hospital in Paris. She had emergency surgery at six or seven and when she came out of surgery, I sort of said to the nurse, 'Is she OK?' and she said she'll be resting for three or four hours.”

He made it back to Roland Garros at 10:00am for his 11:00am match and still won.

Scott would go on to make the finals of Washington later that year and reach a career high of no.42 in May 1999.

Just a few months later his wife Kellie, unable to get a lung transplant, would succumb to cystic fibrosis leaving Scott a widow at just 25 years old.

His ranking would tumble as he stopped playing to grieve and cope with the loss.

He was able to return to the tour and reached the world’s Top 100 again in 2003 and would win a mixed doubles Grand Slam with Sam Stosur in 2005.

He also found a new love in golf and would have a professional career including a tournament win.

However, it would always be the unlikely victory at Queen’s 25 years ago that would highlight his successful solo career.

Scott now works as Head of Performance Coach Development with Tennis Australia.


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