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Jamaican Dustin Brown Bringing The Heat In Johannesburg

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Dustin Brown, Jamaica, South African Open Second RoundDustin Brown, Jamaica
(Photo by © Reg Caldecott)

As the highest-ranked player to ever emerge from Jamaica, 6’ 5” serve and volleyer Dustin Brown could feel entitled to a little more recognition in his sports-loving homeland. But in a country most famous for being home to the world’s fastest man, Brown accepts that, for now at least, he will fly below the radar.

“Five months ago I’d go to Jamaica and go through customs and it would be a hassle getting into my own country even though I am the No. 1 tennis player from the country,” he said. “If Usain Bolt comes, of course he’s a lot bigger than me, he probably doesn’t have to go through customs at all. Now that my ranking has gone to 140, 150 I have been getting a little more media attention in Jamaica; I have been on the TV once or twice on the news.”

Playing just his second tour-level event at this week’s SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg, 25-year-old Brown is one match win away from becoming the first player representing Jamaica to reach a semi-final of an ATP World Tour event. Doug Burke, whose best South African Airways ATP Ranking was No. 175, is the only other Jamaican player to reach a tour-level quarter-final, which he did at Wellington in 1989.

Watch Highlights of Brown's second-round win in Johannesburg

Tall, wiry and sporting dreadlocks, World No. 141 Brown commands attention on the court with his athletic, serve and volley game. And, ironically, the boy from the beach is making his breakout in Johannesburg at elevation, where his big serve pierces the rarefied air. Asked about his speed – a Jamaican trait – Brown replied: “Short distances from the net to the baseline I’m fine, but I don’t know if I would be doing 100m sprints against Usain. That wouldn’t look too good.”

Brown was born in Celle, Germany in 1984 to his Jamaican father Leroy and his German mother Inge and lived in the country until 1996, when he moved to Jamaica. After finishing high school Brown played Futures in Jamaica until 2004, when he moved back to Europe, driving himself to Futures and Challengers in a camper van bought for him by his parents. Brown said that his eight years in Jamaica had a significant impact on his personal and professional development.

“It was good to see a harder side of life. In Germany as a 10 or 11 year old you have a computer, a Gameboy, but in Jamaica…. It was good for me personally, mentally and also for my game to get a little tougher and not to whine about everything, which you tend to do if you get pampered all the time. In Jamaica there was not a lot of pampering.”

Before this week Brown’s lone main-draw ATP World Tour appearance came at Newport in July 2003, when he lost in three sets to five-time ATP World Tour Doubles Champion Bob Bryan.

Last year Brown broke through on the ATP Challenger circuit to compile a 29-16 match record, winning his first title at Samarkand, Uzbekistan in August while reaching four other finals -- Karlsruhe, Germany (as a qualifier), Almaty, Kazakhstan, and back-to-back events in November in Eckental and Aachen, Germany.

One year ago he was playing the Spain #4 Futures event (at which he reached the quarter-finals) and he was ranked No. 465. He finished last season a year-end best No. 144 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

In Friday's quarter-finals, Brown will meet eighth-seeded Frenchman Stephane Robert.

Posted by Shelia

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