In early February, Brayden Schnur reached the quarterfinals of the RBC Tennis Championships, an ATP Challenger Tour tournament in Dallas. But he was soon under the weather, and didn’t know what his next move would be.
“Coming from Dallas, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to show up here,” Schnur said at the New York Open. “I wasn’t feeling good, I was tired. But I just ended up coming here.”
Schnur took a spot in the New York Open qualifying draw, a decision he would not come to regret. The 23-year-old Canadian, who is a star at the University of North Carolina, put together the best week of his professional career.
It began in qualifying when he took on Long Island native Cannon Kingsley in the first round. Still fighting through his illness, coughing in between nearly every point, Schnur fell behind 1-4 against Kingsley.
He would come back to win that match, and then ousted Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 7-6(8) to secure his spot in the main draw.
Taking on compatriot Jack Lin in the Round of 32, Schnur scored the first tour-level victory of his career as he posted a 6-1, 6-3 win.
“It’s been a good week so far. A week of firsts for me. It’s my first tour level win today,” Schnur said after the win. “So I’m pretty happy about that.”
His breakthrough week continued with over thrilling three-set wins over Steve Johnson, Paolo Lorenzi and Sam Querrey, putting him in the 2019 New York Open Finals.
“It’s a dream come true,” said a reflective Schnur. “It’s been an amazing week for me.”
Schnur would battle Reilly Opelka in the finals, a two-hour affair that saw incredible rallies and an enormous amount of resiliency from Schnur. He saved eight break points, and five match points in total, but would come up just short.
In his runner-up speech on court afterwards, Schnur couldn’t help but shed his emotions, wiping away tears as he spoke about all the injuries he has gone through, and the hard work both he and the people around him have put in. He would continue in his press conference.
“I’m not the most talented guy out on the court, but from 14-years-old, my coach asked me to wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. to train,” said Schnur. “I did that for years, all the way to college. And coming out of college with a really bad knee injury, and never really knowing if I was ever going to be able to play at my full potential again. Two years later recovering from that, and then obviously now being here. It’s just a roller-coaster ride. So many times, I doubted myself, and having this week has been unbelievable.”
His week earned him 150 ranking points, a career-high ranking of 107th in the world, and maybe, most importantly, the validation that he belongs competing at this level.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.