Jennifer Brady: ‘I Had To Believe In Myself That I Could Win’

WASHINGTON, August 20, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

When 25-year-old American Jennifer Brady lifted her first WTA trophy after winning the inaugural Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Ky., it gave her a sense of validation that had been missing from her career.

Brady, a tall and quiet 5-foot-10 native of Harrisburg, Pa. who now resides in Boca Raton, Fla., defeated Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-4, in Sunday afternoon’s one hour and 42-minute final. It was the first WTA tournament played on U.S. soil in five months and served as a relaunch for the WTA Tour in North America. The star-studded WTA International event field included Serena and Venus Williams, Aryna Sabalenka, Johanna Konta and Coco Gauff among the 32-player draw.

After her title victory, Brady told the WTA Insider Podcast, “I’m super, super stoked, really happy, really happy about the achievement here at home on American soil. Nothing greater. Just really happy.”

Brady’s words echo her sentiment that she expressed during the trophy ceremony that followed her victory on Sunday. Still masked after she collected her trophy, Brady said, “There’s nothing better than playing at home in America. Every American loves to play at home. So, especially to win the title on home soil is a great achievement for me and something I’m very happy about.”

On Monday, Brady hit a new career-high WTA singles ranking of No. 40, improving by nine places, following her outstanding week in Lexington. In five matches, Brady won 93 percent of her service games – her serve was broken just three times – and lost just 24 games the entire tournament. By the end, she did not drop a single set. Her win against Teichmann improved her win-loss record to 17-5 in 2020.

With her confidence increased, Brady will carry a five-match winning streak – all of the wins have been in straight sets – with her as she readies to play in the Western & Southern Open followed by the US Open, both in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Thanks to many withdrawals, at No. 40 she’s likely to be seeded for the US Open and could be a force to be reckoned with.

Before the shutdown of pro tennis due to COVID-19 in March, Brady started this year fit and strong, thanks to her decision to travel to Regensburg, Germany, during the off-season to train with her new coach Michael Geserer and fitness trainer Daniel Pohl. They helped unlock what had been missing in Brady’s approach to tennis.

“Michael has helped me grow on the court and in building my confidence,” Brady said during her Zoom video press conference with her trophy by her side. The two were inseparable. “Confidence is a major key. He believes in me and pushed me to believe in myself. You have to have confidence in yourself and belief in yourself.”

Later, Brady told the WTA Insider Podcast: “To go to Germany after only really just meeting my coach just for a few weeks just before that, and not every knowing my trainer yet. I think that was something that – I’m still shocked that I did it, but I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Committing to something, a change. I needed a change.

“I needed something that I was uncomfortable with. I needed somebody who knew what it was like at the top level to coach somebody at the top level. I’m super grateful to both of them and everything that we’ve gotten so far.”

Last January in Brisbane, her first event of the season, Brady opened with a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory over Maria Sharapova, then upset World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (4), to earn her first WTA Premier quarterfinal.

Soon after, Brady garnered her first WTA Premier semifinal berth after stringing together wins over Garbiñe Muguruza and Elina Svitolina in Dubai en route to semifinal finish.

By the time Brady arrived in Lexington last week, she was match ready after spending her hiatus participating in a team exhibition event organized by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Keys  in Charleston, S.C., then playing World TeamTennis for the Orange County Breakers in West Virginia. She achieved the fifth-best winning percentage among WTT women’s singles players, winning 56 of 103 games (.543). So, she was definitely fit and ready by the time the WTA season resumed.

Brady began the Top Seed Open with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Heather Watson and her game took off from there. She followed with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Magda Linette in the second round, and a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Marie Bouzkova in the quarterfinals. Then, Brady showed her mettle when she took out Gauff, 6-2, 6-4, in the semifinals. Against Teichmann in the final, she won points on 81 percent of her first serves and was not broken. It was her seventh win in her past 10 against left-handlers.

Throughout, Brady, who was a former collegiate standout at UCLA, showed much positivity and energy as she took control of each of her matches in Lexington through exhibiting a successful 1-2 punch: a powerful serve and heavy ball-striking abilities, which she attributes to the work she put in under Geserer’s tutelage. Brady proved she could hit from any position on the court.

Against Gauff in the semifinals, Brady took control early and never played from behind. She fired eight aces, and in the second set, she went 14-for-14 in winning all of her first-serve points and lost just four points in five service games.

“I’ve been working really hard since the beginning of the year,” Brady said after beating Gauff. “I’ve been putting in a lot of hours on the practice courts and in the gym, and hopefully, everything just falls into place.”

Gauff praised Brady’s serve afterward, saying: “Her serve is great. In particular, she was hitting both of her serves pretty well. I was just trying to get them back in the court, but it didn’t work out. She’s definitely Top 5 on my list …”

In Sunday’s final, everything fell into place. Brady played smart and with high intensity – and kept her nerves in check. It took five set points for Brady to win the opening set against the 63rd-ranked Teichmann. Then, once she broke her opponent to start the second set, Brady slowly and methodically began to focus her sights on the grand prize that awaited the winner.

“I tried not to think about it as I was serving each point for that 5-4 game,” Brady said. “I was focusing on what I wanted to do with the serve and hitting the first ball after that. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself. I took each point as is. Each point is an opportunity to get closer to the title.”

As it happened, Brady was not to be denied. Her big serve and powerful, attacking ground strokes kept the pressure on Teichmann and proved to be the keys to victory – and it culminated a fantastic run to her first title.

Brady became the third American to lift a singles trophy this year, joining Serena Williams (Auckland) and Sofia Kenin (Australian Open, Lyon).

“Before I walked onto the court, I knew I had to believe in myself that I could win. Otherwise, playing the match wouldn’t have even made sense,” Brady told Tennis TourTalk during her Zoom video press conference.

“It feels great to win my first title. There’s only one winner each week, so walking away with the trophy for the first time, at home in America, I’m really happy.

“I’ve always wanted to win a WTA title and everything I ever imagined is definitely reality.”