There are a few players in the men's singles circuit now who may not be in the news throughout the year but they create a resounding impact whenever they are pitted against the top players. The 34-year Dustin Brown of Germany is one such player.
Brown is a regular on the ATP Challenger tour, and he recently won a Challenger tournament in Sophia Antipolis. The ongoing Stuttgart Open is his second tour-level tournament since Munich last year and he made his return worthwhile as he defeated his compatriot Alexander Zverev in the second round.
One of the most entertaining players on tour, Brown made life difficult for Zverev right from the start with his brilliant volleying. He seldom failed to win points when he approached the net, coming up with some acrobatic volleys.
Known for his aggressive brand of tennis, Brown had a stiff challenge on the other side as Zverev is a good returner. But Brown answered the defense of Zverev in his own style by dropping a slew of balls close to the net.
Zverev's first serve was good as he managed to hit 21 aces as compared with Brown's 11. But an unreliable second serve killed the momentum for Zverev in the crucial moments throughout the match; he made 14 double faults compared to Brown's 7.
After winning the first set 6-4, Brown lost three games in the second but bounced back to take it to a tie-breaker. Zverev managed to hold on to his serve to take the match to a deciding third set.
Zverev had no answers to the net-play of Brown in the decider as he lost the set and with it the match 4-6, 7-6, 3-6. Zverev's biggest problem in the match was the number of points he won on his second serve - a mere 9 out of 32 points.
Brown returned Zverev's second serve either with a forehand slice that landed right near the net or with a hard-hitting forehand which made its way to the top of the baseline, handcuffing Zverev.
Even the break-point conversion was poor from Zverev as he managed to take only one out of 14 that he was offered.
Grass seems to be a perfect fit for Brown as it allows him to play more freely than anywhere else. He has defeated the likes of Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic on this surface. He will next face the young Canadian Felix-Auger Aliassime in the quarter-finals, and that promises to be an interesting contest as well.
Speaking of Zverev, no other player has played as many tournaments as him this year and it looks as if that is doing more harm than good. He is looking fatigued and out of ideas in his recent matches, and that is showing in his results.
Even the presence of Ivan Lendl in his coaching team is not helping much. The Stuttgart Open was his best chance to regain momentum before heading into Wimbledon as his chances look bleak in the upcoming Gerry Weber Open (renamed as Noventia Open) where players like Roger Federer, Borna Coric and Dominic Thiem will be present.
Coming back to Brown, a big advantage for him is the fact that there are no expectations whenever he plays. That allows him to play his own style of unorthodox, risky and clever tennis (especially at the net), which is a feast to the eyes on a grass court.
Everyone could see the brilliance and courage in his approach towards the game yesterday, and it is this quality that makes fans long for his matches in spite of his inconsistency. Here are a few of the spectacular points won by Brown in his match against Zverev.