LONDON – After losing to Nick Kyrgios in 2014, Rafael Nadal's troubles at Wimbledon continued on Thursday, as qualifier Dustin Brown knocked out the No. 10-seeded Nadal from the tournament. So who is the man known as "Dreddy" who is now into the third round at Wimbledon? Here are seven things about the German-Jamaican with the dreadlocks you should know.
He is half-German, half-Jamaican
Born in Germany to a Jamaican father and German mother, Brown's family emigrated to Jamaica when he was 11 years old and he returned to Germany in 2004. He has dual-citizenship and originally played for Jamaica until the lack of funding and support from the Jamaican tennis federation prompted him to switch his allegiance to Germany. For a brief moment he toyed with trying to get British citizenship—his grandmother is British—in order to play for Britain and avail himself of LTA funding. That never panned out.
He lived out of a van for four years to support his pro career
With finances short, his parents took out a loan to buy him a Volkswagen camper van in 2004. Brown used the van to drive from tournament to tournament, living out of it to save on transportation and hotels. It allowed him to compete on the lower levels on a regular basis, with his only expenses being fuel and food. He would make some money on the side by stringing rackets for other competitors—he had a stringing machine in the van—and occasionally renting out the other beds in the van. He was finally able to support his tennis career without the van in 2009.
"Obviously all of that has made me into the person I am, tennis-wise and also as a person and as a character," Brown said after his big Wimbledon win. "I guess all that led to this day today, which is obviously a great day, probably the best day of my life so far."
Grass is his best and favorite surface
The modern game, with its light racket frames and synthetic strings that allow players to hit with more power and spin than ever before, isn't supposed to accommodate a pure grass court player. Yet in the face of it all, Brown has insisted to play his free-wheeling grass style, which incorporates serving and volleying and net-rushing. He is 24-17 on grass for his career, a 59% winning percentage that outpaces his success on all other surfaces. On clay he has won 51% of his matches, while his success rate on hard courts stands at 56%.
"I know that on the faster surfaces I'm very dangerous," Brown said. "Obviously I prefer to play on the faster surfaces. Was excitement for me when i heard sometime last year that they're going to extend the grass court season. Obviously not expecting this."
He's beaten Rafael Nadal before
Brown said the experience of walking out on Centre Court to face the two-time Wimbledon champion wasn't as daunting because he already had similar experience last year. At the 2014 Gerry Weber Open, Brown blew Nadal off the court, winning 6–4, 6–1. He's now 2-0 against Nadal for his career.
"Obviously he's one of the best players of the sport, and for me, being able to play against him twice, obviously on my favorite surface, is probably my luck," Brown said. "I wouldn't want to play him on clay or hard court because obviously it would make playing my type of tennis even more difficult."
He's learned to accept his inconsistency
Brown, 30, has never been ranked higher than No. 78. Given the opportunity and the right surface, he's a world beater. But the flops can come too. He's a go-big or go-home kind of guy. "It took a while for me to learn to know that I can win a match like this on a given day, but I can also play a shocking match."
Reflecting on a terrible performance in the quarterfinals of a Challenger in Rome just a few weeks ago—if he won that match he would have earned direct entry into the Wimbledon main draw—Brown said, "I don't know what I did out there, but it was terrible. I guess the main thing for me is to accept that my game has that span, and that's the things I need to accept and know what I need to be doing on the court and do that. Either I win or I lose."
He has troubles handling his nerves in matches
Brown should have closed out Nadal earlier. On his first match point, he left a ball that he could have put away. It landed in. "I saw his backhand come up a little bit, I thought it was going to fly long," Brown said. "When I turned around and saw it drop on the line, I was like, 'Oh, please no.'"
As he stepped to the line to serve out the match, Brown hit what he described as "the worst double-fault in the whole match."
"After that i was like, okay, no matter what, I've served for a lot of matches and for a lot of sets this year, which I've already lost. I said, Definitely be aggressive, go out there," he said. "The next double-fault, if I hit some, they're going to be fast and long."
He's a trick-shot master
Brown rarely gets an opportunity to show what he can do on a big stage. But his ability as a crowd-pleasing shot-maker is second to none. Here's a collection of some of his most audacious hot shots:
Wimbledon 2013: Diving forehand volley winner
Munich 2013: Behind the back return of serve
Hamburg: Dirty dropper
Casablanca: No-look forehand flick
Bergamo: Running between-the-legs forehand
Wimbledon: Running over-the-shoulder forehand