Saturday, May 28, 2011
German Dustin Brown, 2011 French Open
Dustin Brown is one of those players who doesn't quite fit the mould. After recently playing under the Jamaican flag, the German world number 109 hired best friend and car-crash survivor Daniel Puttkammer to be his coach as he prepares for his first ever French Open appearance.
With his red vest and flying dreadlocks, 26-year-old Dustin Brown looks slightly out of place training out on court no.14. Complete with shaved head and baggy basketball shorts, Coach Daniel Puttkammer strikes an equally unorthodox figure, so it is hardly surprising the pair have built up a reputation on the tour for standing out from the crowd. Puttkammer admits the accusation: "It's true, but Dustin's the one who's really different. With the way he looks and plays on court, he's got something new. Dustin likes being a showman, not just for the fans, but for himself. He needs it. And tennis needs more people like him!"
The player with the huge talent, big attitude and frequent outbursts also goes by the nickname Dready, and he also pleads guilty as charged. "I like getting people worked up, I like feeling the energy from the stands. I feed off it. It's good, because I get the feeling that's what the French crowd likes."
After making it to the quarter-finals in Johannesburg and Newport, and defeating Stanislas Wawrinka in Munich this year, Brown, ranked world no.109, now feels he is ready to break through into the highest echelons of the game. It is even written on his website: "A man with the desire to do something… can do anything!"
"Dready" and his camping car
That has been Brown's motto from an early age, and the 26-year-old has shown remarkable determination on his path to the ATP circuit.
After learning the game in Jamaica, Brown criss-crossed Europe in a camping car for years in search of ranking points. According to his coach, who is also his best friend, "He had no support, no money. It was rough."
Puttkammer and Brown met at a tennis academy near Hanover. At the time, 18-year-old Puttkammer was one of the top 100 players in Germany, dreaming of a professional career. That dream was shattered one fateful day, when the youngster was involved in a terrible car crash, tore his spleen and ended up with three litres of blood in his stomach. "I nearly died. The doctors said it was a miracle," he explained. Three weeks of hospital and a year of physiotherapy later, he picked up his racket, but not where he left off...
A reunion of old friends
Meanwhile, Dready was making progress. After taking the Futures tournaments by storm in his camping car, he progressed to the Challengers and entered the top 100 with something approaching flamboyance. It was then, in September 2010, that he decided to put his prize money to good use and give his old friend Puttkammer a call. "I'd never had a coach before, and I thought maybe it was time to get one," recalls Dustin. "Who better to call than an old friend?"
Puttkammer's dream is now becoming reality - even if it is vicariously. "It's great to experience this with Dustin. And two pairs of eyes are better than one. I see things he doesn't see. He has so many strong points, it's easy to build an arsenal. No-one is faster than him when he hits off one of his cannonballs. He just needs to be more consistent."
Brown's racket speed is out of this world, and his volley more than acceptable. He has a feel for the game, and always gives it everything. Now he just needs to keep his focus, and with a tough match against Argentinean Leonardo Mayer on Monday, he will be put to the test. "After that, the draw is open - anything's possible," says Dready. For this very Jamaican German, it is about living up to his motto.