American Brady overcomes jitters to reach US Open semifinals

Chris Evert says the subdued atmosphere at the U.S. Open has helped American Jennifer Brady make a lot of noise.

Brady notched the biggest victory yet in her breakout run at the Open, beating Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday.

Seeded 28th, Brady said she was nervous at the start of her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal. But with fans in the stands, Evert believes, Brady’s jitters could have been worse.

“If you had 22,000 screaming fans, that might be a little bit of a disruption and a distraction for her,” said Evert, a six-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN commentator. “Right now she’s playing in her little bubble, she’s only in her head, and that’s producing her best tennis.”

The 25-year-old Brady trained as a youngster at the Evert Tennis Academy in Florida. She’s playing in her 13th Grand Slam event and is seeded in a major tournament for the first time.

Brady agreed it was easier to overcome her butterflies in the quarterfinal because there were no fans. She said she has struggled with doubt in her career while climbing slowly through the ranks.

“I’m pretty lucky to have just stuck to it, and just really continue to just play and practice and compete and get better,” she said. “Here I am today.”

Relying on a powerful serve and forehand, Brady has lost only 24 games in five matches.

“She has matured,” Evert said. “We had her at our academy when she was 10. She played like a guy, and I mean that in a good way. She had a lot of topspin; she moved so well; she had a lot of power; she had a kick serve when she was 12. … She has come into her own right now.”

With a win Thursday, Brady would become the first former collegiate player to reach the women’s final at the Open since Billie Jean King made it for the last time in 1974. Brady played for 2014 NCAA champion UCLA, coached by Pete Sampras’ sister, Stella Sampras Webster.

TOO LOUD

While it’s quiet at this year’s U.S. Open, Alexander Zverev wants it even quieter.

Zverev paused before serving in the third set of his quarterfinal match to ask ESPN courtside commentator Brad Gilbert to pipe down.

“You’re talking too loud, man,” Zverev said.

“Oh, sorry,” a chastened Gilbert replied.

“I can hear every single word you’re saying,” Zverev said.

Gilbert had just commented on Zverev’s problem with double faults against Borna Coric.

With silence restored, Zverev hit a service winner to hold for 3-3. Despite finishing with 12 double faults, he earned a four-set victory to become a Grand Slam semifinalist for the second time in as many majors this year.

OSAKA’S MASKS

Naomi Osaka has been wearing masks bearing the name of a victim of racial injustice for each of her U.S. Open matches; she honored George Floyd at her quarterfinal victory Tuesday night.

Afterward, when she appeared on ESPN’s set at Flushing Meadows, the channel showed videos of two victims’ parents addressing the two-time Grand Slam champion.

Osaka said she was moved by the messages from the mother of Trayvon Martin and the father of Ahmaud Arbery.

“I was just trying really hard not to cry. For me it’s a bit surreal. It’s extremely touching that they would feel touched by what I’m doing. For me, I feel like what I’ve doing is nothing. It’s a speck of what I could be doing,” Osaka said. “It was really emotional. … I’m really grateful and I’m really humbled.”

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