Jennifer Brady is known for coming close. She has opened the 2020 tennis season by coming closer to realizing her potential.
Jennifer Brady has the ability to hit a tennis ball conspicuously well. That might seem like an unremarkable statement and an unimpressive observation, but I say that because not every player inspires that reaction. A lot of players (and the matches they play) do not make eyeballs pop out. This isn’t a criticism, merely a reflection of the reality that not every competitor will elicit the same response, and not everyone can reach a certain ceiling of achievement.
None of this is meant to imply that Jennifer Brady ought to be making major semifinals or Premier 5 finals. No. This IS meant to say that Brady can rise in the tennis world from her current position, which is (as of Friday, January 10) No. 53.
There is room to grow and develop. There is quite a lot of terrain for Brady to claim.
A successful 2020 season would enable her to become a seeded player at a major before too long. That is a goal which seems simultaneously realistic yet ambitious, something Brady ought to shoot for without being viewed as impatient.
Before looking at what Brady did in this first full week of 2020, let’s remember where she has been in the not-too-distant past: She had a chance to oust Kiki Mladenovic at the 2017 French Open, but lost her nerve late in a first-round encounter. If you can handle Mladenovic in front of a vocal French crowd on red clay, you can play.
Last summer in Toronto, Brady gave Simona Halep everything she could want before narrowly losing the match late in a third set (7-5 in the third-set tiebreaker). Not everyone can bother Halep. Brady is not a player who — when seen on the draw sheet — strikes a lot of observers as an automatic win for an elite opponent.
No, she can play… and she reminded us of that this week. She defeated Maria Sharapova and — just to make sure she pounded home the point — didn’t suffer a letdown after that victory. She then defeated a rusty Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane. Brady reached the quarterfinals, where Petra Kvitova took her out.
We don’t know if this week means Jennifer Brady will do great things in 2020, but it certainly rates as a strong start to a season filled with promise. Brady will turn 25 years old in April. While time is a friend of teenage athletes or 20-year-olds, it isn’t an enemy of 25-year-olds. Time is much more an enemy for athletes in their late 20s or early 30s. Brady isn’t there yet.
Jennifer Brady started this year by showing what she is capable of doing. Can she extend those modest achievements throughout a calendar year? Those achievements will cease to be modest — and become more substantial — if she can answer that question in the affirmative.