A Tennis Phenomenon In The Making
Long before Usain Bolt (the world’s sprint king) came along and changed global perceptions, Jamaica was most famous for its Reggae music and Bob Marley but, now there’s another name vying for the spotlight in the category of sport. And, refreshingly if not somewhat surprisingly, this name is not emerging from the usual arenas of sport such as athletics, cricket, football or even basketball but… from the very esteemed threshold of Tennis comes Dustin Brown. TENNIS… that’s relatively unchartered territory for ‘People of Colour’ which only serves to increase the intensity of interested parties. Ok, so we have the Williams Sisters who have been at the pinnacle of the game for well over a decade and then there’s James Blake, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga but, aside from these, you’d be hard pushed to find Black tennis players of any real note in the open era. In fact, you’d have to go way back to ‘70s and ‘80s to the days of Arthur Ashe and Yannick Noah if you’re searching for male players of any prominence! But, what’s even more remarkable is the realisation that Jamaica actually plays tennis to the point where they can produce a future champion (albeit with the help of Germany, the native country of Dustin’s mother).
Dustin Brown is the highest ranked player to ever emerge from the little island of Jamaica. He’s now sitting at #99 in Singles on the ATP Rankings which means he has automatically qualified for direct entry into the main draw at Wimbledon (one of his main goals). He’s also doing extremely well in Doubles having just won a tournament in Germany - his third title from six finals this year alone…!! Standing tall at 6’ 5”, the similarities to Bolt are all but ended here… for now at least… as methinks it won’t be too long before he’ll be enjoying the same kind of recognition afforded to his more illustrious sporting colleague. He said recently… “five months ago I’d go to Jamaica and go through Customs and it would be a hassle getting into my own country even though I am the number one tennis player from the country. If Usain Bolt comes, of course he’s a lot bigger than me; he probably doesn’t have to go through Customs at all. Now that my ranking has gone up, I have been getting a little more media attention in Jamaica”. The 25-year-old Brown created quite a stir when he played at the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg earlier this year where he reached the quarter-final of the ATP World Tour event. Doug Burke, whose best ATP Ranking was #175, is the only other Jamaican player to ever reach this stage which, he did at Wellington in 1989. On Dustin's second trip to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010, he won the Soweto Open Singles Trophy (a Challenger event) and hence his global popularity grew even more.
Sporting dreadlocks (and the Jamaican flag), the tall, lean figure of Brown commands full attention on the court with his athletic, serve and volley game but, his attraction goes way beyond this as he’s often compared to the legend Bob Marley because of his looks (being Mixed Race and all). Yep, you guessed it, invariably a Marley song can be heard blaring out of the speakers just before Dustin takes to the courts. Born in Celle, Germany on 8 December 1984 to his Jamaican father Leroy and German mother Inge, he lived in the country until 1996 when, he moved to Jamaica. After finishing high school, he played Futures (first level tournaments) in Jamaica until 2004 after which, he moved back to Europe. He would drive himself to Futures and Challengers (second tier tournaments) in a Camper Van his parents had bought for him. He feels that his eight years in Jamaica had a significant impact on his personal and professional development. “It was good to see a harder side of life. It was good for me personally, mentally and also for my game to get a little tougher and not to whine about everything which, you tend to do if you get pampered all the time. In Jamaica there was not a lot of pampering”.
The week of 7 June 2010, Brown arrived in the UK to play the AEGON Championships at the Queens Club in London (an ATP World Tour event) for the very first time. He’s in the main draw and there’ll be real excitement from certain quarters if he makes the third round as he’ll (hopefully) get to play none other than Rafael Nadal…!! The undisputed ‘King of Clay’ won his fifth French Open crown at Roland Garros on Sunday (6 June) and all eyes are firmly fixed on him… so, you can just imagine if Dustin plays a good game… he’ll be on Centre Court, prime time TV... gripping stuff..!! Just like the French Junior Gianni Mina had captured most people’s attention when he played Rafa in the first round of this French Open, the tongues will be wagging, pens scribbling and the cameras flashing… Go Dustin, make the third round and create a little bit of history for yourself in the UK. Then it’s on to the BIG one…. Wimbledon and, again, we’ll wait with bated breath to see how our Dustin fairs.
Check the LINKS Page (his picture) to go directly to Dustin’s website.
Dustin didn’t make the third round at the AEGON - Queens tourney but, he played a very good match against Denis Istomin going down 7:6 (7), 6:4 in a very tight and entertaining match. Still, I guess our Dustin got a bit nervous playing only his second match on grass in the UK. Many of the games went to deuce but he couldn’t surge ahead and eventually, he lost by a mere 5 points. However, one of the highlights of his day was his interview with the BBC and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)’s strong interest in his eligibility to play Davis Cup for GB. BBC Sports host, Sue Barker even suggested that the LTA made enquiries as to whether Dustin would be interested in actually making an allegiance to Team GB but, we’re sure he would much rather hoist the JA flag as he’s a very proud Jamaican who’d want to follow in the footsteps of national hero Usain Bolt …. besides, that challenge alone is enough to keep him keen. So, the countdown is on for the start of Wimbledon… and Mr Brown’s presence on the mown lawns once again…
, Dustin unfortunately went out in the First Round but, he continued to play well on the Challenger Tour… he has won another Doubles event (fifth title this year) and reached the Semi and Finals of a few other Doubles tourneys. Hence, he arrived at the US Open
in very good shape and went on to become the first Jamaican ever to win a match at a
Grand Slam event. In the Second Round, he ran into Britain’s number one, Andy Murray
whom he fought bravely against but, eventually went down 7:5, 6:3, 6:0 in a very exciting match on the Arthur Ashe
Showpiece Centre Court. This was an ultra new experience for Dustin who was certainly not used to playing in front of crowds of 23,000..!! So, again, we feel that nerves got the better of him but, he did manage to break the Murray serve in the Second Set and showed that he had the potential to challenge the top players. The publicity I mentioned above that may have come at Wimbledon certainly came at the US Open as, by this time, more people had heard about his flamboyant play and bubbly personality. Plus, the fact that he played Murray (on Centre court) who is always in the public eye had a significant impact on his own media visibility. The ATP World Tour
has even followed Dustin to his father’s Jamaican homeland for an ‘Uncovered’ video documentary which can be seen on their website. So, we expect that Dustin will to continue to do well in the Tennis world; climb up the Single & Doubles Rankings and ‘open up’ the doors for more Jamaican / Caribbean young people to come through….
WATCH DUSTIN'S ATP WORLD TOUR UNCOVERED VIDEO HERE
A well deserving congratulation goes out to Dustin for winning his first ATP Doubles trophy at the Open de Moselle in Metz, France! This is by far the biggest win of his career which just solidifies his very successful Challenger Tour outings so far this year. The ATP Tour hosts the top level tournaments so to win this title, Dustin and his Dutch partner Rogier Wassen had to beat some top level players which, is exactly what they did! Since losing the opening set in their first-round match, they won six consecutive sets en route to the title, emphasized by their 7:6(6), 6:3 drubbing of the top seeds Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in the semi-finals. Their opponents in the final were second seeds Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares whom they thrashed 6-3, 6-3 in just 53 minutes. Brown and Wassen broke serve in the third and ninth games to secure the first set (without facing a break point themselves). In the second set, they flew out to a 5-0 lead but Melo and Soares were determined they weren’t going out with a ‘bagel’ and fought to recoup one of the service breaks then held serve to reduce the deficit to 3-5. However, Brown made no mistake when serving for the Championship as he held his nerve to close the game out to love, sealing it with an ace.
What makes this title so special for Brown and Wassen is that they were ‘last minute’ entrants into the tournament as Alternatives which saw them cap a dream ATP World Tour debut together. And, they certainly took full advantage of their lucky break by winning the title. As tournament Champions, they earned 250 ranking points which catapults them way up the Doubles league table and almost guarantees direct entry into the top tourneys. They had continued with their wining formula from the Challenger Tour this year having won two titles and reaching two other semi-finals. And, as mentioned above, Brown had won three other titles with different players this season taking his trophy tally to six. So... it won’t be long before Dustin wins his first ATP World Tour Singles title to add to his two Challenger ones…. Watch this space as we follow his rise up the echelons of the tennis world!
Just recently, to the bitter disappointment of Jamaican fans worldwide (myself included), Dustin switched alliance from Jamaica and is now representing Germany, the birth country of his mother. And, although some may fully understand Dustin’s reasoning for the move (a subject
that has been well documented in the international press), others may feel that having gone so far with putting up with the lack of support from the Jamaican sporting bodies, it really is a shame that he felt he couldn’t continue for that little bit longer to see whether he would actually reap any of the benefits for his hard work in firmly placing Jamaican Tennis on the global map. Certainly, he had long toiled with the notion that he was representing a country that, on the one hand, yearned for a Tennis sporting hero but, on the other, weren’t prepared to pay the sacrifice required for such a privilege.
However, with the whole world watching, I firmly believe that Jamaica would have ultimately realised and appreciated the enormous potential that Dustin portrayed and would’ve certainly done right by him (we only have to look at the celebrity status of Usain Bolt for evidence of that). Sadly, the situation now is that all the seeds that were sown by Dustin’s bold stance and energy (for JA’s cause) are completely dashed by the wayside…!! Albeit, we cannot blame Dustin for whatever choice he has now made because he is the one with the Tennis racket in hand having to sacrifice himself in order to reach his career goal. Not disputing that Germany won’t give him the help and support needed (that he also craves) but, I’m not so sure that he will garner the attention of the German fans in quite the same way that he had captured the hearts, minds and imagination of the Jamaican ones..!!