Dustin Brown’s surprising 2nd round Wimbledon victory against Rafael Nadal Thursday shouldn’t have been the ‘shocker’ that the media’s tennis analysts made it out to be. More shocking to me is that tennis no longer attracts or produces the John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg- type serve-and-volleyers that routinely reigned at Wimbledon years ago.
The 30-year-old German dismissed Nadal simply by taking away his strength: rhythmic, power-packed ground-strokes. With guile and quickness, Brown kept Nadal out of his comfort zone, forcing him to the net with deftly placed angles and drop shots.
Ranked No. 102 in the world, Brown (6′ 5″) at times channeled the gifts of past serve-and-volley champions. He controlled the match with a blistering Sampras-like first serve, smacked reflexive McEnroe volley winners and pounded punch volley winners past Nadal with Edberg/Becker power and accuracy. Brown’s arsenal includes every shot, but like most of today’s pros playing singles, he rarely hits a lob, a shot that would have given him several easy winners Thursday against Nadal.
Told that McEnroe had described his effort as the finest performance he’d ever seen by a low-ranked player, Brown said, “It’s a great feeling for him to say that, obviously, from the generation that was playing serve and volley, coming to the net a lot. It was great to be able to do that today, and do it for that long.”
A 13-year pro, Brown moved from tournament-to tournament in a camper without a coach, a factor that probably contributed to his journeyman-type results. He has a 31-55 career record in singles and a 60-66 doubles record with two titles. Now ranked No. 89, Brown reached a career high No. 78 after upsetting Nadal last year in Halle, Germany. Brown next plays Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in the third round.
For now, Brown’s focused on enjoying the moment. “I have a lot of friends here, my coach is here, my girlfriend is here,” Brown said. “I’m very happy about everything. I cried like a little girl, it was just happy and emotional and everything.”