Few of us would’ve heard of Dustin Brown till last night, when we witnessed his ruthless takedown of Rafael Nadal. The two-time champ has now lost to players ranked outside the top 100 for four years in a row. And Brown, a qualifier, put on a spirited four-set show – replete with unorthodox shots, confident serve-and-volley points and absolutely no fear.
Brown was on Centre Court for the first time in his career. As a player who has been on the ATP circuit for about 5 years (he stuck to ITF events earlier), he showed plenty of courage to wing a second win over Rafa (yes, he beat him in straight sets in Halle last year), who looked clueless, with none of his usual tricks working.
But let’s not take anything away from Brown – an extremely interesting personality on and off court. The Daily Mail throws up some interesting trivia – “Brown last cut his dreadlocked hair almost 19 years ago in August 1996. He regularly listens to RnB, hip-hop and dance on his red headphones. He has a tongue piercing, a green tooth and a portrait tattoo on his torso.”
And his beginnings are a far cry from his colleagues too. Born in Germany, Brown – with his family in tow – moved to Jamaica when he was 11, because of the rising cost of playing tennis in Europe. And it’s to his experience here, of playing on poor quality courts and with rubbish equipment, that Brown attributes the development of his mental toughness and composure.
Eventually, he’d move back to Germany to get more exposure and participate in better-paying tournaments. Brown lived out of a camper van gifted to him by his mother, travelling across Europe in it to save money, often earning some more by letting other players crash on his two spare beds.The enterprising young man even bought his own racket stringing machine, and would do the job for other players.
He’s 30 now, and as far as average shelf lives of tennis players go, there might not be a long road ahead for him. But going by last night’s showing – his court presence akin to the effervescent Gael Monfils, clubbed with the do-or-die attitude of Lleyton Hewitt in his prime – we’ll take what we get.