Meet Jennifer Brady, one of the unlikeliest Americans still in the Aussie draw
MELBOURNE, Australia -- American qualifier Jennifer Brady concedes most players probably don't know who she is, but her upsets and stirring escapes at the Australian Open have made her impossible to ignore.
Brady says with a laugh that she has had to extend her hotel reservation twice during an unexpected run to the quarterfinal round that has startled even her. When told she has doubled her career earnings in the past week, Brady laughed and said, "I didn't know that. Thanks for sharing.
"I probably won't know how it feels until I get the check or see the wire transfer."
Brady, a second-year pro, arrived in Melbourne with only two career wins on the WTA main tour, a total she has already surpassed with her three wins at Melbourne Park in the past week.
When asked to catch everyone up on her life story, the 21-year-old shrugged and insisted, "Yeah, I mean, there's not a whole lot to tell," before rattling off how she was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and moved to Florida as a kid. She currently resides and trains at the USTA site in Orlando, Florida, after spending two years playing for UCLA, and some time at the Evert Academy before that.
Brady may have been confident enough to joke about Chris Evert's tweets of support, claiming, "Oh yeah, we're real tight," but she sounds downright shy again when asked if she has run into her idol, Roger Federer.
"Yeah, no, I mean, I'd get too nervous," Brady stammered.
Nevertheless, she hasn't looked rattled on the court.
Since winning her way into the main draw with three qualifying victories, Brady defeated Belarus' Maryna Zanevska, and then saved five match points to upset Britain's Heather Watson in their cliffhanger in the second round. Their 10-8 final set alone took 86 minutes to complete.
As good as Brady's tear has been, Lucic-Baroni's backstory may be even more remarkable. Before this week, the 34-year-old hadn't won a match at Melbourne Park since her Australian Open debut in 1998, when she won the women's doubles title with Martina Hingis. The next year, as a 17-year-old, Lucic beat Monica Seles on her way to the 1999 Wimbledon semis, where she lost to Steffi Graf.
Shortly afterward, however, she and her mother left their native Croatia to escape her father, Marinko, whom Lucic has called abusive. She has lived in the United States since, but her tennis career was interrupted for years.
With her first win here, Lucic-Baroni snapped a 19-year wait between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament, breaking the record previously held by Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm, who went 17 years between wins at Wimbledon.
Brady was only 2 years old when Lucic-Baroni's Slam drought started.
In a way, it will be Cinderella vs. Cinderella when the two meet Monday.
"One of my goals, actually, was in the next couple years to be playing in the second week of a Grand Slam," Brady said. "I sat down and had that discussion with my coaches and, you know, the rest of my team a couple months ago. ... But I didn't say it confidently."
Now look: Brady laughed good-naturedly when teased about even claiming to have a "team," acknowledging that's also new for her, but "I didn't know what else to say except 'team.' Everyone says 'team.' So I just went with the flow."
Why change now?