Hardly anyone expected Jennifer Brady to make it to Saturday’s Australian Open final, much less Brady herself.
The 25-year-old American is one win away from her first Grand Slam title, a prospect almost unthinkable three weeks ago as she emerged from a harsh 14-day quarantine due to Australia’s strict coronavirus protocols that left her strictly confined to a hotel room. and was denied the five-hour exemption for training and treatment that is provided to almost everyone else.
“Even before the quarantine, I didn’t think I would be where I am now, totally not,” Brady admitted after Thursday’s three-set win over Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic that secured passage to her first grand final.
On Saturday, Brady will face three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in her first meeting since a gripping US Open semifinal in September that stood out as one of the highest quality matches of 2020.
The world No. 3, who edged out Serena Williams in Thursday’s other semifinal and hasn’t lost a match in 53 weeks, is looking to become the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to win the first four finals of Grand Slam of his career. .
“It’s going to be a really tough game, obviously, as he won some Grand Slams,” said Brady, who is guaranteed to be in the top 20 for the time being in next week’s standings. “We had a tough game at the US Open in the semi-finals and he even said it was one of his two best games, which was a shame for me. I think it will be a good game ”.
It’s been a long and strange journey for the Pennsylvania native, who was one of 51 male and female singles players who were forced to spend two weeks in isolation after arriving in Melbourne after it was determined that someone on his chartered flight tested positive for Covid-19 on landing.
None of the other 50 made it through the third round. But Brady, seeded 22 at Melbourne Park, has made his way into the women’s draw conceding just two sets and 40 games.
“I’d say I really didn’t have high expectations of myself to do well,” Brady said. “I came out of quarantine, and then we were lucky to have a separate tournament for us who were locked up. I was lucky to get a couple of matches before starting here at the Australian Open. “
He was not allowed to leave his room to practice, or for any other reason, Brady spent two weeks subsisting on food deliveries and FaceTime chats while hitting balls against a mattress in his room.
“The first day I got there they gave me groceries, so they gave me oatmeal,” he said. “Every morning I would eat oatmeal, oatmeal and then order Uber Eats for lunch and dinner every day.
“So I did not eat one of the meals that were provided. I ordered Hunky Dory for the first seven days, every day, sometimes twice a day.
“I am a creature of habit, so I eat almost the same thing every day. There were three places that I would mix between.
“I didn’t actually watch a Netflix series just because I knew that if I started something, I wouldn’t want to do anything more than just lie in bed and watch Netflix.”
It’s not exactly business as usual, but the road less traveled is nothing new to Brady, who struggled with his love of the game amid struggles as a young man while his contemporaries excelled.
“I don’t think I really appreciated the opportunities that I had with the sport,” he said. “I was doing it because I had to, because I had nothing else to do, because I didn’t know what else to do except go and practice five hours a day and just wake up and do it again.
“In that regard, I didn’t really enjoy the sport. And besides, I was not very successful in the lower categories. I wasn’t really winning a lot of games so that affects your confidence too, because the other juniors my age were doing really well and they were successful and they were successful early in the pros.
“That was very difficult for me, just all my confidence and my game. I took a hit there and thought maybe it wasn’t meant for this sport. Maybe I’m not good enough. I’ll go to college for four years and then find a real job. “
Brady enrolled at UCLA, where helped the tennis team win a national title as a freshman in 2014. After several years in the professional ranks, including a surprise run to the fourth round on his debut at the Australian Open in 2017, he skyrocketed in the rankings last year after winning his first title. of the WTA in Lexington and reach the last four. at Flushing Meadows.
She has now become the first female college player to advance to a Grand Slam final since Kathy Jordan in 1983, but the toughest hurdle so far looms in Osaka, who has only bolstered her reputation as the best player in major matches of his generation with Thursday’s beating of Williams, which improved his career record in the last three rounds of major tournaments to 11-0.
“I’ve definitely been practicing hard,” Brady said. “I think I have earned the right to play a Grand Slam final on Saturday. I think it’s crazy to believe it. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism