Australian Open 2021: In Defeat, Jennifer Brady Proves She Belongs


Osaka plays so many good shots in the toughest moments that her opponents feel a constant need to hit perfect shot after perfect shot, an impossible task against a player who gives away so little. Serena Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, fell this way in straight sets Thursday, pounding so many forehands into the net. At this point there probably is not one thing Brady does on a tennis court better than Osaka. She is not alone.

Down a set and two games away from losing the match, Brady easily could have packed it in. Staring across the net at Osaka, a player who had awed Brady in their youth when they played junior tournaments together in Florida, the underdog could have been forgiven for going away.

If there is one thing the tennis world knows now that it did not know six months ago, it is that Brady does not go away. That might have appeared more likely when she went to U.C.L.A., or when she slumped following an early run to the fourth round here and at the U.S. Open in 2017.

But she hooked on with a new coach, Michael Geserer, in early 2019, someone she had never met before, and went to work.

“Every time she goes on the court, she leaves everything on the court,” Geserer said.

So that is what she did near the end. She broke Osaka to get to 4-1, looked at Geserer with a pumped first and made sure he got the message: Still here. After the changeover, she high-stepped to the baseline, ready to fight, and she did, before ultimately falling 6-4, 6-3.

On the WTA Tour, Brady is known as one of the hardest workers. That she outlasted all but one other player after spending 15 days in a hotel room only happened because she was working off a base of fitness she had been building since early November, when she began her preparations for this tournament, far earlier than most players.

“I belong at this level,” Brady said when asked what she had learned from this experience. “Winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable for me. It is within reach.” There is work to do to improve her skills, she said, so that when she gets to these big moments she does not feel pressure to play perfectly but just well enough to win.


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