Jennifer Brady is no stranger to hard work or determination. In fact, she was only five years old when she discovered her passion for tennis in her hometown of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Two decades later, Brady finds herself among the tennis elite and for good reason. Ranked #24 in the world of women’s tennis, Brady played for UCLA before turning pro in 2014, making her Grand Slam Debut at the US Open. Now, just six years later, Brady has gone toe to toe with legendary names, even coming out victorious against Maria Sharapova in 2020. Read on to learn more about this powerhouse player!

How did you discover your passion for tennis?

When I was 5 years old my parents took my twin sister and I to the park near our house in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. We brought racquets and balls with us to the tennis courts there. We just started picking up balls and then hitting them with no clue what we were doing. It just so happened that there was a tennis clinic going on at the time and one of the coaches came up and asked my parents if we wanted to join. I immediately fell in love with the sport and always asked my parents to take me to the courts and so I could play. I’d also hit off the garage door in the basement of our house growing up. Finally my parents made a backboard that I could hit off of, by using a bed sheet!

Who are your sports heroes that inspire you to pursue excellence on the court?

I think Lebron James is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He’s a great sports hero to look up to, having been through many ups and downs and still continuing to achieve greatness. I also love watching Rafael Nadal play tennis. For me, he has the biggest heart and fights for every single point. He is such a great champion of our sport and what he has achieved so far in his career will never be broken!

What is one of the greatest pieces of advice you have ever been given? Who gave you this advice and what did it mean to you at the time you received it?

A coach once told me to work smarter, not harder. I think this made sense to me because while I was always a hard worker I may not have always worked hard at the right things. I began to wonder what this meant and realized I needed to work hard and smart on areas that needed improvement, rather than everything.

How would you say your relationship with your coaches over the course of your career has helped to shape you as an athlete (and in life)?

I have always had a good relationship with all of my coaches growing up. Each coach has given me a different point of view and piece of advice. I have taken each and every piece of advice given to me over the years and have tried to apply it to my life on and off the court. 

What mental tools do you use when you’re under pressure on and off the court? Please describe a time when you had to overcome your mental blocks to go for the W.

I try to stay in the moment and not look ahead or behind. By focusing on being present I was able to win my first WTA title. I was up a break and serving 5-3 in the first set in the finals. I started looking ahead and then dropped a few loose points, which resulted in me becoming a little frustrated and tense. I then quickly reminded myself that I am the one ahead and just need to focus on this point and take it one point at a time. I was able to close out the match in 2 sets and win my first WTA Title!

Can you describe the emotions you feel when you’re preparing to compete in a big match, such as the US Open? Do you have any pre-match rituals that help you to feel confident and powerful before competition? 

When prepping for a big match I usually have a routine I do (which is the same for every match). I have a good warmup and then have a quick chat with my coach to go over the tactics and let out any thoughts or emotions that I may have. Usually this helps me to manage the emotions before a match so I can keep my anxiety levels down. Sometimes I’ll listen to music before the match if I want to really get my mind off of the match and just try to get in a good mindset. 

When you’re training for an important match, what part of your workout and training process do you believe gives you an edge on your competition? How do you develop deeper endurance and speed?

When training for a match I tend to spend more time on specific patterns and tactics the day before/day of. I think most tennis players have a very similar routine when it comes to the competition phase. Usually we taper down and do less in the gym and on court to be fresh for the matches. I will usually do quicker, more explosive exercises in the gym, and more point play practice on the court to prepare. 

Are you doing anything different to prepare for this year’s US Open knowing that due to the pandemic, there will be no fans watching? And from your perspective, how does having no spectators change the atmosphere for competition?

My preparation for this year's US Open was the same with or without fans. I think having no fans helped me, since there was nothing else to focus on but myself and the match. There were no distractions which made it similar to a practice where no one is watching but your team and the opponents team.

Congratulations on such a fantastic finish at the US Open! What is your biggest takeaway from your experience this year, and how do you think this year’s tournament will impact your approach to the game moving forward?

This year was such a great result for me by reaching the semi-finals. I am absolutely thrilled to have made my first semi-finals in a Grand Slam, especially my home Grand Slam. I want to take this experience and apply it to each and every tournament I play in. I take a lot of confidence from this result and a lot of confirmation in myself from the hard work I have been doing and will continue to do. 

With such a strong finish in this year’s US Open, how do you approach goal-setting and moving forward with your game to help you continue on the upward path?

I’m happy that I have the experience of what it feels like to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. I definitely walked away from the US Open extremely proud but also hungry for more! I will reset my goals with my team and continue to work hard and improve each and every day on and off the court. 

Coming down from such intense play these past few weeks has had to be a challenge. What do you do to keep yourself centered and grounded once the match is over?

During the US Open there are a lot of emotions, but since it is a Grand Slam it seems to be more mentally draining because it takes place over two weeks. I love to watch the tennis matches once I get back to the hotel, so I usually turn on the live tennis and then have dinner with my coach/other American players. I am a very easy going person and have always been very humble. I try not to get too high on wins and too low on loses. I think in order to be successful in this sport you have to learn to manage your expectations and emotions, and that is definitely a work in progress!

Please share a story of how sports has positively impacted your life.

Tennis has impacted me both on and off the tennis court in many positive ways. For example, playing tennis has given me many opportunities to travel the world. I have been able to experience a ton of different countries and their cultures. I’ve been able to travel to Qatar and ride a camel, I’ve seen the world's tallest building in Dubai, I’ve visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and I even went to the Great Wall in China. Without playing this sport I would not have been able to experience all of these things!

Jennifer Brady knows what it means to play like a champion, and you can too! Thanks to Asics Tennis for your great partnership! Make sure to create an account with Sports Fuels Life and claim your free Champion’s Guide Playbook digital download!