Dustin Brown: I Had A Plan Against Rafa, To Take Him Out Of His Comfort Zone
by Tom Gainey | July 3rd, 2015, 9:09 am
  • 44 Comments

It’s becoming part of Wimbledon tradition, Rafael Nadal losing to a low ranked player. Following in the footsteps of other triple-digit ranked players to beat Nadal on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, yesterday qualifier Dustin Brown made his debut on the most famous court in tennis and stunned Rafa 75, 36, 64, 64.

Brown now leads Nadal 2-0 in their head-to-head after also beating the Spaniard in Halle last year 64, 61.

In the 2-hour, 34-minute match, Brown won 71 of 99 serve and volley points, taking Nadal out of his baseline rhythm.

Born in Germany, the 30-year-old Brown entered the afternoon with just four career Grand Slam match wins and just 33 tour level wins in 13 years as a pro tennis player.

Brown’s opportunity continues tomorrow against Serb Viktor Troicki.

Brown talked about the big win afterward.

Q. When you came off court, John McEnroe described your performance as one of the all-time greats that he’s ever seen here at Wimbledon of a low-ranked player playing on Centre Court. How would you describe your performance out there today?
DUSTIN BROWN: He just said that to me, I did a radio interview with him also. He said the same thing to me. It’s a great feeling for him to say that obviously, you know, from the generation that was playing like that, playing serve and volley, coming to the net a lot. It was great to be able to do that today and do it for that long.
I knew what the plan was because I played against him in Halle before. Obviously he’s a great tennis player. Knowing that the grass might be a little slower than in Halle, obviously doing it over best-of-five sets is a different situation than doing it only best-of-three.

Q. Your return game is really interesting and unusual for the tour these days in terms of dropshots, aggressive returns. Talk about your approach when returning serve against Nadal.
DUSTIN BROWN: Well, the point is whatever I do is to take him out of his comfort zone. If I would stay in the back and rally with him left, right, that would not be a very good match for me. I know that. Obviously I try to play my game.
Even if I miss a few returns or whatever, it’s also good if he doesn’t get that many hits and obviously doesn’t get into a rhythm. The second set there, he got into it a little bit, and that was very difficult for me because, you know, you know you got to put the volley on a dime in the corner. Even then he still passed me. I had to say, Okay, that is too good, concentrate on the serve and put more on it.

Q. As you think about your accomplishment, what goes through your mind about Rafa’s career and legacy?
DUSTIN BROWN: That’s a very difficult question.
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. I mean, 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.
I’m happy I got to play him on that court win or lose. All the kids that play tennis dream about being able to play on that Centre Court. Playing against him there is special. Also being able to put that performance together, it was definitely very difficult and I’m very happy that I held it together for the whole match.

Q. You have a very stunning tattoo. Tell us about it.
DUSTIN BROWN: It’s a portrait of my dad. I got it last year in April, I think. I’ve always wanted to have a tattoo. 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.
Yeah, 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.

Q. What did you feel when you went up to serve for the match?
DUSTIN BROWN: Obviously I would have preferred to have broken, not having to go and serve again. Going to the net at 15-40 after that forehand, okay, I said, Try to hit a decent volley. I saw his backhand come up a little bit. I thought it was going to fly long. When I turned around and saw it drop on the line, I was like, Oh, please, no.
Then he hit very good serves, an ace and two service winners. I’m like, Okay, fine, if this is what’s going to happen, I end up losing. I’m definitely going to try and play as aggressive as possible, which I didn’t do on my first serve. It was the worst double-fault in the whole match in the bottom of the net.
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. The next double-fault, if I hit some, they’re going to be fast and long.

Q. You’re being appreciated for your exploits on the court as opposed to being the only Rasta involved in the game. How does that make you feel?
DUSTIN BROWN: I am the way I am. I’ve been like this all my life. Obviously it’s great that people appreciate it. But on the other side, if I would worry too much about what people think about everything I do, then I wouldn’t have the hair and probably definitely wouldn’t look the way I look.

Q. The first set was an epic contest that you very much deserved to win. How did you mentally cope with the fact that possibly the third and fourth sets were a bit easier for you to win? Was that difficult to cope with mentally?
DUSTIN BROWN: First of all, I was trying to play. Everyone tells you play point by point, play point by point. Definitely it was not that easy. I would say it was not easy, because playing him is not easy. Even the match in Halle wasn’t easy because I was playing really well, and trying to keep that together for such a long time, and trying not to think about what just happened out there and what I need to keep doing to win the match.
I had a game plan. Obviously the same one I had last time when I played. When I got that break in the beginning, I was a little bit too passive on the volleys and tried to go for too much because I know he’s a great player. If he gets any chance, most likely he’s going to pass me, especially off the forehand side.
That game where he broke me, he hit a really good lob off a decent volley where I thought I would be pretty good in the point. I tried to stay out there, play aggressive. I realized I had chances on the return games, and that’s what I tried to focus on.

Q. You said to me something that was very interesting. You said, I am the way I am. Could you take a moment and explain what you meant by that and also could you reflect on all those years in the Volkswagen camper, what those experiences were like.
DUSTIN BROWN: Well, obviously all of that has made me to the person I am, tennis-wise and also as a person and as a character. And I guess all that led to this day today, which is obviously a great day, probably the best day of my life so far.
It’s difficult when people ask me that about myself because for me it’s normal. I could be sitting here and saying, Why are you guys all different? It’s a difficult question.
I’ve been like this. I’m not trying to be a certain way. That is how I am, and always have been. Obviously playing this sport, have to adapt a few things to be able to play the sport. But I try not to change myself too much while I’m doing that.

Q. Do you feel this coming, this level of success, maybe not beating Rafa on Centre Court, but the form that you have now?
DUSTIN BROWN: Well, I know that on the faster surfaces, I’m very dangerous. 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.
But I had a very tough matches this year already, playing in the States, having match points, losing 7-6 a few times in the third set. I was really looking forward to this stretch of tournaments.
After French Open I took some time off. I took a week off. Didn’t do anything. Went to see my girlfriend in the States. Just relaxed a little bit and tried to get my head fresh for the grass court season. Played quallies in Stuttgart, was able to play three good matches there, then lost against Janowicz. A tight one, but still have the feeling I played really well.
Then won a good first round match again against my friend Haider-Maurer in Halle. Until 5-All in the first set, I think I played really well against Kei. To be honest, he was better at that point. He turned up a switch. I don’t know what it was, how he did it, but he was hitting returns, he was hitting passing shots. I was just looking outside to the box, Okay, if he’s going to keep doing it like this, it’s going to be done really quickly. It was after that.
I lost two matches on grass, but I had the feeling I was playing well. Obviously I would had hoped to be in the main draw with one or two, end up with being in quallies. With a little short notice, I came on Saturday, yeah, just tried to prepare as good as possible. Having that match in the first round against Ungur, showed me that even though I lost to Kei, yeah, he played unbelievable that day. I didn’t play bad. So that’s what I also realized coming into quallies and playing that unbelievable match against Ungur in the first set.

Q. You said that you would much prefer to play Rafa on grass compared to the clay. Is that a feeling overall for the guys in the locker room, playing Rafa on grass compared to any of the other surfaces?
DUSTIN BROWN: That you would have to ask the other players. I think it depends on the player. Not everyone would like to play Rafa on grass either. If I would have to stay back and rally with him on the grass, I wouldn’t want to play with him on the grass either. This obviously is a surface that makes it easier to play my type of game that I want to play.
On that given day, you have to put it together, which I have done twice now. But that doesn’t mean that I will play him next time and it will happen again, no matter if it’s grass or any other surface or even if we would come up with a surface that would be faster.
Obviously it makes it a lot easier for me to play my game, take time away from him, let him hit shots that he doesn’t normally have to play.
Yeah, from the baseline he’s one of the best guys out there. With his forehand, yeah, you put the ball in the court when it comes back, the point is done.

Q. A lot of players, their personalities get expressed in their games, the way they play. How do you think that your personality is expressed through your tennis? What can we see about you in the way you play the sport?
DUSTIN BROWN: Well, it’s the same thing a little bit like the question before. I don’t know obviously how it looks from the outside because I don’t see myself play. Obviously when we watch matches it’s like, Okay, that’s a good shot, maybe that was stupid. That is how I am. That’s what makes me dangerous, especially on these surfaces.
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.
I had a quarterfinals in a Rome challenger, and it was actually to be direct main draw for Wimbledon. I don’t know what I did out there, but it was terrible. I think I lost 1-2. I was done within the hour.
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.

Q. Do you think other players don’t want to play you?
DUSTIN BROWN: Hopefully (smiling).
On this surface, when I go out there, obviously I’m confident that I can play my game. But then I said, again, I lost the match against Janowicz who started serving too good. I lost against Kei. Obviously I am not unbeatable on this surface, but it comes more natural playing on this, especially with my type of game.
Yeah, what other players think, no one has said anything to me obviously, but I know that I can play really well on this. I’m looking forward to the next match.


You Might Like:
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Dustin Brown US Open Interview [Video]
Highlights From Dustin Brown’s Win Over Rafael Nadal In The Wimbledon Second Round [Video]
John Isner Apologizes For Loss In Houston, Calls Performance “Pathetic”
Rafa Hits Rock Bottom Thurs. at Wimbledon; Friday Highlights

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44 Comments for Dustin Brown: I Had A Plan Against Rafa, To Take Him Out Of His Comfort Zone

skeezer Says:

“It’s becoming part of Wimbledon tradition, Rafael Nadal losing to a low ranked player.”
Wow. And I thought I was rough.
Wait for it, wait for it…………

Congrats to Brown, one of the best tactical matches ever seen, and the plan was well executed.


ron Says:

Skeezer – I agree about the match tactics. Reminded me of Ashe vs. Connors way back when. Took his game away and didn’t give it back. Slices, killer returns, drop shots, short points, not allowing his opponent to get into their rhythm.


Skeezer Says:

@ron
Yeah its sweet to see that style of game come back and have significance. There are way to many shots you can play in the game that give it “swag” besides just playing Pong Tennis!


Jock-KatH Says:

So, has Dustin Brown prepared a plan for his next opponent?


jane Says:

^ good question; and will his next opponent help his execution of said plan by leaving so many short balls in the court and standing behind the baseline? it takes 2 to tango!


Skeezer Says:

Don’t know if its going to work the next rd, but it clearly worked against Rafa!


Jock-KatH Says:

Re: Brown: Agree, agree with Skeezer and Jane – but hoping he doesn’t progress to test Andy.

I find him pretty scary – (he’ll have aspirations) – he’s had to make a living the hard way and who can blame him now when the bounty he could achieve suddenly becomes very important (he’s used his previous low earnings to pay off his parents mortgage) – …..


Michael Says:

Like Life, Tennis is mysterious and inexplicable. When the great Roger and Andy struggles against Rafa even on grass courts, a player like Dustin Brown just outclasses him with his sheer brilliance and artistry frequenting the net often to unsettle a relentless machine like Rafa. The truth is that Rafa was clueless against a rampaging Dustin Brown and was just going through the motions on the court. The inevitability of defeat was written all over in his game when he missed even easy gift aways on his forehand wing. How was this strategy not possible for Roger who is also a big server and volleyer during his time ? That is where I find Tennis quite puzzling ?


Margot Says:

Michael, matches are won and lost on such small margins. Rafa is step slower these days, his serve less potent and his mighty forehand doesn’t always fire. These are tiny but hugely significant changes.
perhaps, most significantly, he seems to doubt himself. His confidence just seems to drain away these days. I find it sad.
How do great champions depart with dignity?


Michael Says:

Margot – True. Rafa is definitely not the force he once was. He makes quite a lot of uncharacteristic UEs than normally is his hall mark characteristic of near perfection. But, still watching Dustin Brown destroy Rafa gives me that squeaky feeling as to how such strange things happen on the Tennis stage ? Dustin is 30 and he is not even younger than Rafa.

Every match is different, but I have never seen Roger or Andy or even Novak destroy Rafa as Dustin Brown managed the other day ? Although Rafa won a set, he was never in the match and was looking clueless and listless as to what hit him ? The score line deceives you as the match was not even close with Rafa’s serve being threatened at regular intervals.

That said, I definitely feel for Rafa. This match would have sapped his already low confidence even further. He definitely needs some big victories under his belt to rediscover his hey days. Let us hope, he does.


sienna Says:

Lets hope he beats the cheater.


alice Says:

More than anything Rafa’s problems are mental. It’s the anxiety which is causing the mighty forehand for example just to implode for long periods of time.
I think I’m not the only person who thinks that Toni is not only not just helping but may be an active hindrance. I really really would like to see someone new brought in but it feels like Rafa is in thrall to his relationship with Toni and this just won’t happen. Any thoughts from Michael or Margot?? or anyone else?
It is painful to watch him out there looking so exposed. Brown didn’t win that match Rafa just bottled it.


Wog Boy Says:

Good job Viktor, Dustin is done and dusted.


Giles Says:

Curse of beating Rafa continues.
Well done Viktor


brando Says:

@Alice: I’m with you and feel the same. I agree with McEnroe and Henman: a 2013 Nadal would have defeated brown, even in straight sets, since he had a lot of chances. But basically rafa lacks completely in self belief and has zero confidence in his game. Henman said he cannot believe that a 14 time major champion with over 65 tour titles is this fragile mentally. Billie Jean King said that rafa right now is his biggest opponent since all year he has a look of anxiety on his face. That he could break down at any moment. I’ve never seen rafa like this and he had real game issues but with him it’s more mental above all else right now. I think he should hire a sports psychologist like Andy to rebuild his self esteem since right now it’s incredible to believe that the same guy we see oncourt many label as the toughest mentally we have ever seen in tennis. He’s fragile.


Okiegal Says:

@Margot 2:25

Sweet post regarding Rafa and his downward spiral. How do they go out with dignity?? I guess retire when they’re on top….but when tennis is their whole life, I suppose that’s hard to do. A lot of people thought Roger should have quit when he went through his rough patch, and look at him now! The difference in Roger and Rafa is their mental state. Rafa loses confidence and Roger’s big ego won’t allow that to happen to him. I’m not putting him down for that…..a great characteristic to have being a sportsman. Arrogance goes along way for self confidence…..imho.


calmdownplease Says:

Spot on Okie
Fed’s sheer arrogance is like a shield
A shield so powerful in fact that it can protect him from reality.


sienna Says:

lmao incredible stupid comments. First confusing self belief with arrogance. Second Federer altered his game to a more attacking style.
years ago already starting with Anacone and even more with Edberg.
you could say Nadal hasnot the tools to further develope a winning style.


Okiegal Says:

@cdp….A shield?? Why didn’t I think of that word. You and I actually agree on something! Maybe we already have in the past, my “fragile” mind won’t allow me to remember……sigh…. lol


Giles Says:

Ahh, so that’s why fed doesn’t wear hats, there ain’t one big enough to fit his head!


calmdownplease Says:

|I don’t need you to agree with me on anything
It’s fine dear :)


jane Says:

i knew brown would lose. it takes two to tango and there is nothing wrong with saying one player played well while the other played poorly.


jane Says:

it’s true fed has a lot of self-belief, but he’s been willing to try different things too, which has helped him to find better recent form. for example, he’s had several different coaches over the years: roche, anaconne, and now edberg. he’s recently changed his racquet and he’s altered his style by coming to net more. his match up with rafa might be one place that he’s been rather stubborn, in the past anyhow, but overall he seems willing to keep trying new things.

rafa’s game/strategy has evolved at times, too (for example his serve in 2010, using more “banana” shots, etc) but it seems his team and rituals are rigid, and maybe that stunts his growth a bit? obviously, too, injuries have derailed his progress at times too.


Hippy Chick Says:

Have to ask am i the only person who thinks some fans take their worship of a player it to the absolute extreme, when i see people with hats,t.shirts,banners,flags granted arent too bad,but when i see women wearing earings with initials on with RF,i do find that all a bit sad to be honest?….


Hippy Chick Says:

I had my doubts about Dustin been able to back up that win,and since Viktor came back from the suspension hes been playing quite well….


Skeezer Says:

Never been a big believer in the it takes two. Some days, a player just plays better than the other, and the credit should go to the better player that day. I mean does Rafa had that many “didn’t pkay well” days? He’s done this 4 times to 100+ players in early rds. Maybe sometimes, sometimes, thr other player makes you play bad by his better strategy and style that day.


Wog Boy Says:

jane, My opinion is thar Rafa rather pay poorly than Dustin play some exceptional tennis. Take this for example, Dustin came to net 102 times against Viktor but won 55 points, against Rafa Dustin won more then 70 points and came more than 90 times to net. Does Viktor has better passing shots than Rafa? How many times Roger tried same game and Rafa burned him with passing shots time and time again and Roger is better S&V player than Dustin and better on the net, no? This is 80% of real Rafa.


alice Says:

@brando

thank you for that. It’s frankly appalling to see the state he’s in at the moment mentally. I don’t think the problem is with his game (although his serve needs work on for sure) but with his capacity to execute it. He said himself that when playing with nerves it wasn’t a question of playing good or bad but that he couldn’t even play his game at all. Well, we sure as hell saw that against Brown when he just went to pieces after missing an easy forehand and then twice double faulting.
I don’t see that Toni is doing anything very much for him and he really needs help and change from various sources. Yes, as you say, he needs the kind of psychological help that Murray took on but also he needs an Edberg or Becker type figure on board as well. Toni can stay on but take a backseat role.
What worries me though is that Toni just seems to be a block against anything happening and Rafa just won’t go against him.
This is a way way worse period for him than when he was actually injured.


jane Says:

that’s my point wog boy, rafa wasn’t at his best and dustin played really well; hence the result. of course you can have matches where both play well or where both play poorly. but someone still wins and someone still loses.

in any of those scenarios, *it takes two players* to make a match what it is, or they’d be playing backboards.


Okiegal Says:

@cdp……Okey dokey! That’s plain enuff! Just conversation, dear….This forum is a strange place to be at times……me thinks!! :)


alice Says:

@wog boy
@jane

Rafa has arguably the greatest passing shots ever….that’s what has got him 9 RG titles.
You sure wouldn’t have believed that seeing him play the other day.
I doubt he’s executed that shot so badly since he was what? 13/14?


Okiegal Says:

A jim dandy match going on between Tsonga and the good doctor! Loving it…


Hippy Chick Says:

The second set Rafa played against Dustin was like the old Rafa,i just had a sixth sense that he wouldnt be able to sustain it been as hes not the player he was….


Okiegal Says:

On the Isner match….Two bad calls….would he have won w/o them?? We’ll never know…….


Okiegal Says:

I am agreeing with several posts on the forum this AM……but won’t say from whence they came……


jane Says:

ha ha, got to agree with you there hippy; the earrings and face painting are over-the-top for me. there’s a thin line sometimes between fan and fanatic. ;)


Wog Boy Says:

@alice

That was my point, Rafa can hit passing shots from any position on the court and from both wings and hit the spot he wants to hit, ask Roger:)


Wog Boy Says:

^^ Talking about old Rafa


alice Says:

@wogboy…….

I think Rafa always reserves his greatest passing shots for Roger!!
His passing shots were appalling the other day…I reckon he was hitting them better at 13/14!
It’s all mental and that is a prime example ie a great great shot doesn’t suddenly become a bad one unless you’re fried mentally.
Toni isn’t adding anything to the table right now – am not sure he’s not actually making things worse.
Rafa needs to follow Djoker and take on someone like Becker and also get someone to fix his head!
PS with Rafa out I will be supporting Djoker!


Jack Says:

No other player has this enervating condition that drives me nuts watching him play.Scratcing his behind,his nose, ears a whole series of abnormal moves as if that would be the winning formula.His face expresses despair when he loses a shot.In short he is a poor loser unbecoming of a champion.Bravo Brown !!! I enjoyed your victory


alice Says:

@ jack

wow, you are one classy dude…bet you get hit on by loads of guys and chicks…..
or not, maybe that’s the root of your problems

a lot of men seem to have problems with a guy who vast numbers of great looking women absolutely adore…wonder why that is?


Michael Says:

Alice @ 8.16 am,

I have to endorse Novak’s opinion when he says that it would be imprudent on the part of Rafa to seperate his cord with his Uncle Tony.

Rafa has achieved so much in this sport that he is classified as one of the Greatest in the game and all that happened under the auspicious watch of Tony who groomed Rafa to become a fantastic player. Rafa’s problem today is not that his opponents have discovered the way to win against him. He has tackled such aggressive players in the past with elan using his vicious top spin game to near perfection. He is today losing only because he is not doing well what he was doing earlier with total lack of confidence. All that Rafa needs to do is to rediscover his relentless ways which would subjugate his opponents.


alice Says:

@ Michael

thanks very much for your response. I am on the same page as I think I tried to say above in that I don’t believe that it is Rafa’s game which is the problem but his capacity to execute it as his nerves are just blocking and freezing him.
Yes, probably he shouldn’t split with Toni but surely as many many people are saying it would be good to ADD people to freshen things up and give him help and perspective. An Edberg or Becker figure, a sports psychologist or someone similar of that ilk. This has helped many other top players and I really feel it would benefit Rafa hugely. How many great players have only ever had one coach??!


sienna Says:

I also enjoyed Rafas loss.It is good that his arrogance is finally being punished.
You cannot expect to be the greatest with trying half hearthedly. You must be comitted with everything you got. He just isnt into tennis so much.

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