There’s a long list of future stars who’ve come on the tennis scene with reckless abandon, charging up the world rankings with the ‘next great star’ moniker firmly attached. Only then, the results diminish and the ranking fades, as does the chatter about capturing the post-Serena/post-Roger mantle.
Not long ago, Jennifer Brady would have fallen into this undesirable category. In 2014, Brady made the jump from college ranks to the pro tour after helping UCLA capture an NCAA title in her second year with the Bruins. That same year she made her WTA debut in New York at the US Open, and started climbing the ranks in both singles and doubles. At the Australian Open in 2017, Brady stormed into the fourth round as a qualifier, and repeated the fourth round appearance at the US Open months later.
Brady’s star was on the rise. She was ranked inside the Top 100 and only getting better. Then the slide began, as Brady tumbled to #116 by the end of 2018. She struggled in major events, never moving past the round of 64. This past January at the Australian Open, she drew Simona Halep in the first round and made a hasty exit.
The results were a far cry from her UCLA days. Her impact was felt immediately in Westwood as PAC-12 Freshman of the year, in one stretch winning 23 consecutive matches. She won the PAC-12 singles title at The Ojai, and finished the year with 39 singles wins and 37 doubles victories. A year later, in the first round of the NCAA Championships, she systematically dismantled the #3 player in the nation by winning twelve straight games for a clean sweep.
But after two years as a college standout and four years as a pro, Brady’s future as a big name on the WTA Tour was in jeopardy.
“I don't think I was really ready, physically or mentally, to make the fourth round of two Slams in one year,” Brady told USOpen.org. “Definitely came as a huge surprise to me. Honestly, I didn't really believe that I belonged at that level or that it was achievable for me. To be honest, I wasn't ready, mentally or physically, before it.”
Last year, Brady went into hiding of sorts. She aimed to straighten out her game with coach Michael Geserer, and to do that she would need to relocate to Germany. She knew no one, and the only language she understood was tennis.
That seems to have served Brady well. She returned to topple WTA #1 Ashleigh Barty in the Round of 16 at Brisbane ahead of the Aussie Open. Then in Dubai, she defeated #9 seed Garbine Muguruza in the quarters. When the WTA schedule resumed this summer, Brady captured the her first WTA title at Kentucky.
Even after a quick departure from the Western & Southern Open in August, Brady was clearly in a New York state of mind. She has raced through the US Open women’s draw, headed next to the semifinals against 2018 champion Naomi Osaka.
It’s these kinds of streaks that made her an NCAA champion. Will it be enough to make her a US Open champion? That remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – the name Jennifer Brady is back on the list of “next great stars,” and she’d prefer to keep it there for the foreseeable future.