Brown Keeping Recent Run In Perspective
Dustin Brown is keeping a tough start to 2015 in perspective as he steps up his grass-court campaign.
On a constructed court, slotted together piece-by-piece two weeks earlier — like many of the ‘one-night stands’ of the pro tour days — Dustin Brown dropped to the ground to kiss the Gerry Weber Open grass. The gunslinger, combining a quick trigger action on serve that developed into a free flowing game, had negated Rafael Nadal, who, four days previously in June 2014, had lifted his ninth trophy at Roland Garros.
Memories of his biggest win resonate, particularly on his return to Halle, just 120 kilometres from where he was born. His second-round victory over the then World No. 1 remains a source of great pride and inspiration. But this year, times have been tough for the German, now at No. 114 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He’s lost a heap of three-setters, but he’s keeping things in perspective.
“It’s hard for me to look at it sometimes, because I know I could be better in the [Emirates ATP] Rankings,” Brown exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com in Halle, shortly after his first-round win over Andreas Haider-Maurer Monday. “It was tough for me, especially at the beginning of this year, as I was playing well but losing matches. I just tried to look forward and hoped it would come together on the grass.
“Everyone always has a tendency to look up. You always have to have goals. If I’d played better at the start of the year, then maybe I’d be No. 50. That’s one way to look at it. But I have to remember that seven years ago I was playing Futures and living in a camper van. So this is pretty good. No one would have thought that with my family not having a lot of money and no tennis experience that they would raise a Top 100 player.”
In travelling more than 30 weeks each year, Brown is living the dream so many hope for, and it is the support of his family, in addition to his growing social network on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, that motivates him – win or lose on the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tours. The mental assurance that age and experience bring, have helped.
“How many people actually make it?” he asks. “I know a lot of friends of mine, who were good tennis players, but never won a single ATP point. My Mum, family and friends tell me to relax, but look at what you have achieved. It stresses me out at times, particularly the tough losses, but you fall back on the advice of your parents. My best friend, Daniel, calls me if I lose or win. Others tell me, ‘Listen, it’s good, relax, play your tennis and it will get better.’
“A lot of things don’t bug me anymore and I’ve learned to cope. Little things, when you’re in the zone and trying to concentrate have bugged me. Things that I cannot change. Such as the weather, or if you hit a second serve on deuce and a kid screams out, or if you have a break point and the guy comes up with good shot. Instead of thinking, ‘God, damn, I hope I get another point’, I’ve gotten upset and thought about it for the next 10 points. I have learned the process of moving on."
At 30 years of age, Brown continues to play his natural game: attacking tennis. In not giving his opponents a lot of rhythm, and keeping the points short, his approach is well suited to grass-court tennis.
“I was always more comfortable at the net, so serve and volley is more natural to me,” he explains. “When I was young, I was actually pretty scared of the ball. We’d do drills where guys had Continental grips and would drill balls at me. So all I’d do is get the ball away from my body, just to lose the fear of the ball. Obviously if it clips the net, you can get tagged, or if you hit a shank volley, but then you turn around. Normally no one hits the ball at you. It’s the way I have practised all my life.
"If it works, it works. If not I lose and move on."