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Defiant Rafael Nadal vows to come back stronger

By Tom Allnutt

Published 04/07/2015

Glum faced ace: Rafael Nadal hasn't made it through to the fourth round at Wimbledon since reaching the final in 2011
Glum faced ace: Rafael Nadal hasn't made it through to the fourth round at Wimbledon since reaching the final in 2011
Dustin Brown defeated Rafael Nadal in an exciting encounter

Rafael Nadal refused to view his Wimbledon second-round defeat by Dustin Brown as a signpost pointing towards the end of his career.

Nadal became the biggest casualty of this year's championships when he crashed to a 7-5 3-6 6-4 6-4 defeat in a thrilling match to extend his slump in form.

The 29-year-old Spaniard has now failed to progress beyond the fourth round of Wimbledon since appearing in the final in 2011 and has not reached the semi-final of a Grand Slam since winning the French Open last year.

"Obviously this is a bad moment for me. I need to accept these kind of things that can happen. I have done that all my career," he said.

"I'll keep going - it's not the end. It's a sad moment, but life continues. My career too. I have to keep going and working more than ever to try to change that dynamic.

"I know I am going to every tournament with the right motivation, working well. I think I made all the things well to prepare here this tournament.

"I don't know if I will be back to the level of 2008 or 2010 or 2007 or 2006 or 2011.

"I'm a good loser. When I don't play that well, I always accept it. I am not happy, but I accept that I am not enough good."

Brown's journey from camper-van traipser to Wimbledon superstar has certainly been a long and rickety ride.

The German-born Jamaican remains an entirely exceptional underdog.

Not so long ago Brown was stringing opponents' rackets to help make ends meet but the 30-year-old is now one win away from a grand slam quarter-final and a potential match-up with Britain's Andy Murray.

Born in the German town of Celle to a Jamaican father, Leroy, and a German mother, Inge, Brown's parents took him to Jamaica when he was 11, leaving behind the conventional, but expensive, tennis system in Europe.

Brown had always been a keen sportsman as a youngster, playing football, handball and judo, but it was tennis where he excelled, and it wasn't long before he was spending most of his teenage years with a racket in his hand.

His talent was obvious, but the support for rising tennis stars in the Caribbean was lacking, and Brown's parents persuaded him to return to Europe, with the added sweetener of a Volkswagen van they bought to help him travel to tournaments.

Brown chugged around the globe to play in the sport's minor competitions, struggling to pay for entry fees, petrol and food and he even invested in his own stringing machine, so he could fix other players' rackets for around €5 a go.

Brown, who is fluent in German, English and Jamaican, soon began to establish himself on the main circuit and last year he reached a career-high ranking of 78.

His distinctive dreadlocks, which he has not cut since he was 19, remain very much in tact and after beating Nadal, he unfurled his t-shirt to show off a large tattoo of his father, which was imprinted on his torso last year in Cologne.

"I am the way I am," Brown said afterwards. "I've been like this all my life.

"Obviously it's great that people appreciate it but on the other side, if I would worry too much about what people think about everything I do, then I wouldn't have the hair and I definitely wouldn't look the way I look."

Belfast Telegraph

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