Ear Hustle

Jamaican Tennis Player Stuns Wimbledon By Beating Spanish Player Rafael Nadal

Jamaican Tennis Player Stuns Wimbledon By Beating German Player Rafael Nadal

Until yesterday, he was a little known 30-year-old who spent his time travelling Europe in a camper van attending obscure tennis tournaments.

But Dustin Brown became an overnight superstar when he dramatically knocked out double championship winner Rafael Nadal in the most stunning upset at Wimbledon so far this year.

The German-born Brown isn’t your usual Centre Court idol though thanks to his tongue piercing, dreadlocks, large tattoos and a Las Vegas model girlfriend.

And his journey to the SW19 spotlight is just as unconventional.

While many tennis pros are hot housed from a young age in expensive academies, Brown forged his career at some of Europe’s more out-of-the-way tournaments living on free food where he could and travelling in a tiny camper van bought for him by parents who had to scrimp and save to buy it for him.

For Brown, the win yesterday was the culmination of years spent learning tennis the hard way, traipsing around tournaments in a camper van and playing as many games as possible as he struggled for money for petrol and food.

Brown was born in the German town of Celle to a Jamaican father, Leroy, and a German mother, Inge, and had a British grandmother, making him technically eligible to play for Great Britain in the Davis Cup.

But the British Lawn Tennis Association reportedly refused his offer to represent the UK and, after initially playing for Jamaica, he now plays for Germany.

He excelled in sport as a youngster, playing football, handball and judo, but decided to specialise in tennis.

When he was 11, his parents – who were struggling to afford the high costs of their son playing junior tennis in Germany – moved to Jamaica to work in tourism.

The competitive and controlled atmosphere of youth sport in Germany were replaced by the ramshackle public courts of Montego Bay, which Brown says gave him a new perspective on life and toughened up his tennis.

At the start it was awkward, people didn’t know who I was, everyone was like, ‘Who’s this guy with the camper?’
Dustin Brown on his start in tennis

The country had a huge influence on the teenager and he says he hasn’t cut his dreadlocked hair – which gives him his nickname ‘Dreddy’ – since he was 19.

He once said of his dreadlocks: ‘People ask me if they don’t make me hot in summer, but actually they have a cooling effect, keeping the sun from my scalp.’

Brown also has a large tattoo of his father Leroy’s face on his chest, which he revealed and touched in admiration after beating Nadal yesterday.

The tattoo was originally believed to be that of Jamaican musician Dennis Brown, but the tennis star admitted it was in fact of his father.

Speaking after the match, he said: ‘I have the portrait of my dad at home in my bedroom, also. I don’t get to see him that often. Normally in the off-season.

‘It’s been a very long road for me and my whole family. That’s one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time and I had the opportunity to do that with a great tattoo artist in Cologne in Germany last year.’

Aware of his obvious ability, but without the infrastructure in Jamaica to support their son, his parents invested in a camper van for him to drive around Europe’s tennis tournaments, improving his game.

He said of his parent’s gesture: ‘They weren’t rich, but it was their way of supporting me in my dream to build a career from tennis.’

They bought the van in 2004, but only finished paying it off in 2010. The number plate read CE DI 100. CE was for Brown’s birthplace in Celle, D was for Dustin, I for Inge and 100 for the world ranking he wanted to break.

The intervening years have been far from easy for the aspiring star. With money short, he often lived off pasta for a weeks at a time as he drove the vehicle around Europe, trying to win prize money.

In an interview with the New York Times, he admitted to once asking himself: ‘Is this ever going to get better? Is this ever going to end?’

His at times bizarre travel itinerary took him to tournaments in places including Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzogovina to Almaty in Kazakhstan.

He even bought his own stringing machine and would offer to restring other players rackets for five euros-a-time to supplement his income.

He told The Guardian: ‘At the start it was awkward, people didn’t know who I was, everyone was like, “Who’s this guy with the camper?”

‘But after a while, meeting people, playing better, playing doubles, stringing rackets for the guys, you get to know everyone. Call it hustling, grinding, whatever you want.’

After a three years in the camper, he began to make a breakthrough in 2009, and last year achieved a career high of 78 in the world rankings. He is currently ranked 102.

Though he has now ditched the camper van, his earnings haven’t gone through the roof. So far this year he’s earned just £25,000.

His surprise win yesterday could change that though – his Wimbledon earnings are now expected to top £50,000.

He said after the match: ‘I’ve never been on Centre Court before. I thought I’d freak out a little bit, but I felt very familiar here.’

Brown, who before yesterday had won back-to-back matches just once in his professional career, now faces Serbian Viktor Troicki, who is ranked 24th.

Source:  Dailymail.co.uk

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