Generally speaking, there are three kinds of college tennis players:
—The kind that reaches their highest athletic goal by making a varsity team.
—The kind that lands in college tennis as a back-up plan.
—The kind that uses college as a path to the pro tour.
Jennifer Brady is the latter example, the rarest of the three.
The 21-year-old has made a name for herself this month after an unlikely fourth-round run at the Australian Open, which ended at the hands of veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on Monday. Brady spent two seasons playing for UCLA before putting all of her confidence in a pro career.
“Her plan was to go pro after one or two years,” UCLA women’s assistant coach Rance Brown told TENNIS.com. “She was ready. She would have gotten bored and stagnant staying here with the amount of talent she has and the type of game.”
Brady possesses a combination for success not unlike fellow American and Australian Open quarterfinalist CoCo Vandeweghe: huge strokes and a laid-back temperament. They each played a large part in getting through the qualifying draw and through three more rounds of main-draw play, which included a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 10-8 marathon win over Heather Watson in which she saved five match points.
While Brady may seem like she came out of nowhere, the Floridian has had a professional plan in place for years. She grew up training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, FL, where USTA Player Development took notice and influenced her decision to compete for UCLA, while also trying her luck on the ITF Pro Circuit. (She has since relocated to the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.)