NEW YORK, NY, USA -- Jennifer Brady’s breakthrough season continued with a flourish on Sunday, as the No.28 seed from the United States powered into her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal with a thunderous 6-1, 6-4 victory over 2016 champion and No.17 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany at the US Open.
"Really happy with making the quarterfinals here at the US Open," Brady said, during her post-match press conference. "Hopefully I keep going."
World No.41 Brady had lost her first two fourth-round appearances at majors, which came at the Australian Open and the US Open in 2017, but in her first meeting with former World No.1 Kerber, the American was able to make the third time the charm, locking up an elite-eight appearance after 88 minutes of play.
"I don't think I was really ready physically or mentally to make the fourth round of two slams in one year," Brady said, reflecting on her 2017 runs. "Definitely came as a huge surprise to me. Honestly, I didn't really believe that I belonged at that level or that it was achievable for me.
"So to be honest, I wasn't ready mentally or physically before it. And, you know, this year, starting the beginning of the year, I felt like a different player. I'm not putting expectations on myself but also not surprised when I'm doing well at a tournament."
Jennifer Brady is the first former collegiate player reach the women’s quarterfinals @usopen since Gigi Fernandez (Clemson) in 1994.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 6, 2020
Brady played @uclawtennis from 2013-15, earning All-American honors and helping to lead the Bruins to the 2014 NCAA team championship.
The career-best major result extends Brady’s tremendous 2020 season, which opened with her first two Top 10 wins and first-ever Premier-level semifinal before the tour’s hiatus. Upon the tour’s resumption, Brady picked up exactly where she left off and then some, claiming her first-ever WTA singles title in Lexington last month.
"Physically and mentally, I think I have improved on both aspects," said Brady. "I have gotten a lot fitter. I'm able to maintain my intensity from the beginning of the match all the way until the end. Also going out there, I think having that physicality that I have, the improvement of my fitness I also have, that brings also the improvement of the mental side as well."
Against three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber, Brady broke serve four times, and she was the cleaner player, with 25 winners to just 14 unforced errors. Kerber's 20 unforced errors outnumbered her 16 winners, and the German struggled on second serve, winning just 35 percent of those points.
"[Kerber] was making a lot more balls in the second set," Brady stated. "I think maybe I wasn't as aggressive as I was in the first set. I felt like I came out and played really good tennis in the first set, exactly how I wanted to. I was expecting things to be like that. I wasn't really surprised."
Now into her first major quarterfinal without the loss of a set, Brady will line up against either No.8 seed Petra Martic of Croatia or No.23 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the next round, as she seeks a final-four showing at her home Grand Slam event.
Brady kicked off the match with a bang, grabbing a love service hold which was punctuated with a backhand winner down the line. Kerber struck back with a love hold of her own, wrapping up that game with a forehand winner square on the baseline, and the opening stages seemed to augur a competitive first set.
However, Brady went on a complete tear from there in the opening frame. After another backhand winner gave the American a hold for 2-1, she started racking up game after game with her combination of power and precision off of her groundstrokes.
Solid returning by the American gave her two breaks in a row and a 5-1 lead, as three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber was left without many answers in the first set. A deep forehand by Brady queued up double set point, and though Kerber saved the first with a vintage backhand crosscourt return winner, the German found the net with a backhand on the second.
Brady kept her momentum going with an early break in the second set, taking the first game by ending a rally with a backhand winner on her third break point. Kerber, not to be outdone, finally notched her first service break of the day in the next game with a stunning forehand return winner down the line.
Kerber then dropped serve at love to cede the lead back to Brady, and though the second set proved to be much more competitive than the first, the German was hindered by the loss of that game, as she never was able to get over the line in any of the American’s remaining service games.
Brady faced five break points over her next three service games, but her power game steered her through each of those predicaments, as Kerber was left to contemplate her missed chances down the stretch. The German did well, though, to save a match point on her serve at 5-3, drawing an error with a fierce forehand, before holding and forcing Brady to serve for the match.
Despite their vast difference in Grand Slam championship experience, the American was up to the task, quickly racing to double match point. Kerber fired a service return long at 40-15, and Brady romped to her deepest showing at a Grand Slam event thus far in her burgeoning career.