New York: Fresh and refreshing US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady serves as a beacon both for American tennis fans and those who respect the value of struggle. Her path to this high point at 25 did not qualify as gilded.
She played college tennis, and the US Tennis Association rummaged through the data to pinpoint the fact that nobody who did such a thing had made a US Open quarter final since Gigi Fernndez in 1994. She spent much of 2015 and all of 2016 scrounging through the Triple-A tiers, winning $444 in Waco, Texas, here, $760 in Charlottesville, there, $1,267 in Dothan, Ala., over there. When she was up and reached the 2017 Australian Open fourth round after having weathered qualifying just to reach the big bracket, a reporter noted she had doubled her lifetime prize money.
“Cool, thanks,” she said. “Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know that.”
Well, people do figure out things, even when they aren’t sure they can. As of her 69-minute picture of self-belief and power in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday during her commanding 6-3, 6-2 win over 35th-ranked Yulia Putintseva, Brady has marshalled her power to win all 10 sets at this US Open, with only two of them as troublesome as 6-4.
And given her 6-1, 6-4 rush through three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, she has spent an interrupted 2020 beating six of the world’s top 23 players, plus Coco Gauff, and winning her first career title at the Top Seed Open in Kentucky.
“I know what I’m doing out there,” she said Tuesday. “I believe in myself, my game, that I’m good enough to win matches and be at this level and to be where I am today.”
“She was playing really fast balls to me,” Putintseva said, “so I should have been quicker with my reaction.”
All that came three years after Brady’s first appearance in Ashe, when she lost, 6-1, 6-0, in 46 minutes to top-ranked Karolina Pliskova, after which she said of the crowd: “Yeah, I mean a couple of points, they got loud. Yeah, I just didn’t really give them the opportunity to do that.” Three years after that, the biggest win of her life also came with silence, happening in the stadium almost completely empty.ser
So she hopes to hear a roar someday, this native Pennsylvanian (Harrisburg) who moved to Florida at 9 (but not for tennis reasons) and then to UCLA for two years of college play (with an NCAA team title tucked in there). But for now, she can settle nicely for a bawl and a vista.
For the former, she said of her mother, Elizabeth: “Today was the first time I’ve FaceTimed with my mom, and she started bawling. That was nice.”
And for the vista that might cause any parent to bawl with pride, Brady told of bygone days in the bushes.
“I was playing Challenger [Tour] events, lower Challenger events, losing in the qualifying first round, and I was thinking: ‘Okay, do I have a chance to make it?’ “ she said. “ ‘Will I make it? How can I really succeed doing this? Am I meant to play this sport?’ There were a lot of doubts, a lot of questions, you know, definitely not positive thoughts, you know, during those times. But I think I’m pretty lucky to have just stuck to it and just really continue to just play and practice and compete and get better. You know, here I am today.”
To get here, she went through Germany, moving there late last year to start with her coach, Michael Geserer. She finished 2019 ranked No. 55 but wanted to see if she might prove better than that. She thought a change might help.
Her ranking stands at No. 41, pointing way upward, and she can explain how this happened. “I have gotten a lot fitter,” she said after beating Kerber. “I’m able to, you know, maintain my intensity from the beginning of the match all the way to the end.”
That, in turn, feeds the mind, “knowing I can play my game at a high level from, you know, the very first point all the way until the end, without a dip in my physical abilities.”
So, here she is today.
- Washington Post