Back At It: Dustin Brown’s Newport Novella
Dustin Brown hasn’t quite reached celebrity status, even after his defeat of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon — but that doesn’t mean he’s not recognized more.
“Once you’re at a tournament with my looks and my hair, it’s kind of hard for me to hide,” Brown said, after his quarterfinal defeat of American Sam Querrey in Newport. “It’s hard to say it’s more of less because of last week at Wimbledon. I stop and sign autographs and take pictures, but I wouldn’t call it celebrity status. People aren’t jumping me in the grocery store.”
His life could move closer to celebrity status in this Rhode Island town, though. Today, he ousted the highest ranked player (No. 36) left in the draw in Querrey, by finishing off a two-day match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Yesterday, fans scattered as rain stopped play with Brown up *4-3 and 15-0 in the third.
This morning’s match was was quick hit tennis, no mistakes allowed, and Brown came prepared.
“Sam has such a great serve himself, so it was a dangerous situation,” Brown began. “If I had lost that game it would’ve been a totally new match again. I’m very happy that I held serve and go the ‘W.’”
Into the quarterfinals in Newport for the second time in his career, Brown appreciates the benefits of winning tour matches rather than the challenger tournaments — which have filled his schedule much of the time during his 13-year career. He’s currently ranked No. 80 and should close in on No. 60, if he can continue his success in Newport.
“The main goal is to be top 50 or 60,” Brown said in an interview with The Tennis Island later. “Then I can play main draws every week and not go back to challengers.”
Next week, though, Brown will play a challenger in the Netherlands.
“The players are not worse, but you don’t get as much money or as many points,” he said. “So the points I won here — 45 — I would have to play finals there and beat four guys who are very good players. So those are the problems when you don’t get into the tour events.”
Brown won 77,000 Pounds Sterling at Wimbledon, a third round salary.
“But people forget how much we lose every other week when we play a challenger,” he said. “Even these doubles players, Nick Monroe and Mate Pavic, made it to the semifinals today. But then they go to a challenger in Italy where there’s a 30 percent tax and for losing first round, [they are paid] 100 Euros. So for 100 Euros, you’ll fly and pay 400-500 Euros for that flight. So, you appreciate a week like this or Wimbledon because even in juniors it’s always spending, spending, spending with the hope of making an income.”
One thing hasn’t changed for Brown in his many years: his style of tennis. He has always been a serve-and-volley devotee.
“It’s just the way I was taught,” he began. “And, I always did that naturally from when I was young. I didn’t win a lot of matches, but I remember playing juniors and mini-tennis with those sponge balls. Other kids were serving underhand. I was one of the first to serve overhand. Even playing mini-tennis, I’d serve and go to the net.”
The downside is his baseline game has suffered.
“My serve and volley was more developed than my baseline game, most of my life.”
Finishing off his match today, where a slip in concentration could have shifted the outcome, Brown made sure his serve was warmed up. He did his normal workout, but about a half hour before the start he went back to the practice courts and served 30-40 balls to warm up his arm. Even with that, he double faulted on the first point of the resumption.
“This is what we love to do. This is our job,” he said. “But, obviously, nothing always goes one way. So I had to keep trying.”
Brown’s tennis idol had been Marat Safin before he retired. Now Brown said he was “really good friends” with Gael Monfils, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga plus lots of other men on the tour.
“I always liked the way he’d [Safin] be on court. He was an aggressive tennis player and showed his emotions,” Brown said. “I think I’m pretty much like that, too.”
Brown’s aggression against Querrey stunned the American. Second serves were pummeled for winners, while drop shots caught Querrey off guard. Baseline rallies zipped by as Brown connected early with the ball, shaving valuable time from Querrey’s responses.
Brown, like most players, sets goals for the year. However, contingency plans are always nearby.
“Everyone has goals, but on the other hand you can’t take them too seriously,” he said. “If you lose you keep going. You still have to be motivated. So if I have goals of being top 50, that’s one thing. But I had a rough start of the year where I lost six or seven really close matches. When those matches start piling up you just have to have the belief. And, it’s good to have family and friends around who tell you to keep going and your luck will change. And, in the grass court season, it did.”
Brown is now 11-3 on grass for the season. Looking at Brown, people might quickly assume that he is Rastafarian. But, he isn’t.
“I just have long hair,” he said, smiling.
But there’s no assumption about music. He comes on court plugged in; you’d think for a man who has variety in his tennis game, he’d have a variety of tunes to get him all up and ready for a match.
“Normally I listen to music all day,” he said. “And then a little bit before my match I put on the same thing I’ve been listening to since Wimbledon — ASAP Rocky. The song is ‘Canal Street.’ I like the song and it gets me motivated.”
Brown is scheduled to return to the grass courts at Newport tomorrow for his quarterfinal. He’ll play the No. 2 seed, Ivo Karlovic — a tough ask for any player who will have to guess where the rocket serves will come from — but not impossible.
Brown leads their head-to-head 2-1. They met last in Delray Beach this spring where Brown lost what he called “a close” match in three sets.
“There are some things you cannot change,” Brown said in press. “But I always have to try.”
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