| By Brian Coleman

American Jennifer Brady continued her run in Flushing Meadows with a back-and-forth 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory over Monica Niculescu of Romania on Saturday afternoon. 

It was by no means an easy victory for Brady, who won the first five games of the match, only to see Niculescu slowly work her way back into the contest, first by winning three straight games in the first set and then winning the second set. Brady also coughed up a break advantage in the third set, while also taking a tumble on court after chasing down a ball at one point, and was forced to play a deciding tiebreak to advance.

Unwilling to fold and give away a match that seemed dominated by her, she saved her best tennis for the tiebreak to close out the win and book her spot in the fourth round.

“It was both fun and frustrating,” Brady said of the rollercoaster ride of a match. “But, you know, I went into the match and knew what to expect. It wasn’t like I was thrown off guard or anything like that. I knew what was going to come at me.”

That stoic approach allows Brady to rise up rather than shrink in the high-pressure moments, and it has shown in her performances in the majors. In fact, all of Brady’s main draw wins on the WTA Tour this season have come in the Grand Slams. The former UCLA star is now into the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the second time this year, after doing the same in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

“If somebody told me that, I probably would not have believed them,” she said after her win on Saturday. “I’m just kind of taking it all in and enjoying the moment.”

Brady turned pro two years ago after an excellent college career which included leading her Bruins to the 2014 NCAA Championship. She was a product of the Evert Tennis Academy after she moved to Florida with her family from Harrisburg, PA as a child. After being a part of a regimented schedule throughout her tennis development as a junior, she says her time at UCLA was a major turning point in her growth as both a player and a person.

“Those two years were crucial for me. You know, if I were to do the whole process again, I would stick to what I did and go back to UCLA,” she said. “I learned a lot off-court, just learning how to be on my own.

I was at an academy for basically my whole life when I played tennis, so, you know, I had the same schedule every single day. Nothing outside of that changed. So it was good to have a change. I learned a lot from that off-court and on-court.”

American Jennifer Brady has powered her way into the final 16 of a Grand Slam for the second time in 2017. 

Talented at every stage of her development, that sense of confidence she has earned in recent years is evident in her game. She is a big-hitter with a power game who likes to control and dictate points with a heavy forehand, but her all-around game been on display in Flushing Meadows this past week. She used her power game in a  6-1, 6-1 drubbing of 23rd seed Barbora Strycova in the second round and then showed match toughness to win a third-set tiebreak in her third round match on Saturday.

Brady is the youngest of five Americans to reach the final 16, and will meet world number one Karolina Pliskova on Monday for a spot in the quarterfinals. Pliskova, last year’s runner-up, has dropped the first set in her last two matches, and Brady will try to use her power game to pull off the upset and continue her breakout 2017.

“I haven’t watched her play much, but I know obviously she’s No. 1 in the world,” said Brady. “So it’s going to be a tough match.”

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com