SG Slammers – SG
29 October 2015

One would imagine that beating 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal twice in the span of 13 months would be a career-altering feat for most tennis players.

But Dustin Brown, whose unorthodox style flummoxed the Spaniard at the Gerry Weber Open last year and in the second round of Wimbledon in June, begs to differ.

In a phone interview with The Straits Times, Brown, 30, said: "It was a great confidence boost... but my career didn't really change.

"It's only two matches.

"It's great that I (beat Nadal), and especially that I won twice.

"But at the end of the day, I got the same amount of points if I'd beaten someone else."

Born to a Jamaican father and German mother, Brown did concede that more people recognise him now. That said, at 1.96m and sporting a whole head of dreadlocks, it is hard to miss him.

His refusal to get carried away can be attributed to the hustling in the early years of his professional career, which taught him to never take anything for granted.

For about five years, Brown, who turned professional in 2002, lived a nomadic existence, hopping around Europe in a camper van - which his parents paid for.

He played on the International Tennis Federation Men's Circuit (Futures) - which is two rungs below the top-tier Association of Tennis Professionals Tour.

The objective for each event was simple: Earn enough prize money to fund the next trip.

To make ends meet, he rented out the extra beds in his camper van to fellow pros who wanted to save on accommodation costs.

Brown also had his own stringing machine which he used to earn extra income by stringing the rackets of other players. He charged a rate lower than that at tournaments.

The life was far from the dream he had envisaged as a child playing tennis in his hometown of Celle in north Germany.

And while he did break into the top 100 in 2010, Brown admitted that there were many times he felt like throwing in the towel.

He said: "It's always tough, especially when you're playing tournaments and struggling to survive.

"The thought (of giving up) goes through your mind, especially when you're playing Futures and not winning any matches, and when you're spending more money than you are making.

"But you have to do what you have to do to keep the dream alive.

"If I didn't do it (this way), then I would've quit tennis because I wouldn't have the money to do it any other way."

Judging from his current world No. 84 ranking, it is fair to say his career has not taken off just yet.

But beating Nadal has given Brown his 15 minutes of fame, enough to earn him a slot on the Singapore Slammers team for December's International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

IPTL founder Mahesh Bhupathi said: "Dustin plays an explosive brand of tennis which fits the IPTL format perfectly. To add to that, he has the flair and personality that draw tennis fans to him which we all saw at Wimbledon this year."

Brown said Singaporeans can expect to see his aggressive game, which features rasping volleys and angled drop shots, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

He added: "There'd be excitement and, hopefully, I'd be able to show good tennis and have a great time with my team."

For now though, his sights are set on the US Open, where he is aiming to improve on a career-best second-round showing in 2010 to climb further up the rankings.

Because after all the grinding in his early years, the last thing Brown wants to be is a two-hit wonder.

Tickets to the Singapore leg of the IPTL on Dec 18-20 are on sale at Three-day season tickets ($595, $395 and $195) are fully transferable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Brown cashes in on Nadal wins with Slammers spot'.