Dustin Brown insists he will remain true to his rasta roots after the dread-locked German qualifier stole the Wimbledon spotlight with a stunning upset of Rafael Nadal.
Brown produced an almost flawless display of serve and volley tennis to beat two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal 7-5 3-6 6-4 6-4 and secure just the fourth grand slam win of his career.
The flamboyant 30-year-old’s striking appearance and eye-catching play made him the talk of the All England Club on Thursday.
But beating Nadal in front of a packed crowd on Centre Court was a rare headline-grabbing moment for Brown, a journeyman ranked 102 in the world who has spent much of his career labouring in relative obscurity.
Brown spent three years travelling and living in a VW camper-van purchased by his parents as he drove to tournaments around Europe, often stopping at laundrettes to wash his own clothes and stringing rackets for other players to make extra cash.
Regardless of his sudden burst of fame, Brown, who still can’t afford a coach, has no intention of letting the adulation affect his beliefs and laid-back personality.
“It’s difficult when people ask me about myself because for me it’s normal. I could be sitting here and saying, Why are you guys all different?” he said.
“I’ve been like this. I’m not trying to be a certain way. That is how I am, and always have been.
“Obviously playing this sport, you have to adapt a few things to be able to play the sport.
“But I try not to change myself too much while I’m doing that.
“Obviously it’s great that people appreciate it. But if I would worry too much about what people think then I wouldn’t have the hair and wouldn’t look the way I look.”
Brown has been beaten in the first round of nine tournaments in 2015 and, before arriving at Wimbledon this year, he hadn’t won a grand slam match since making the third round at the All England Club two years ago.
But he never gave up on the dream of having a moment like Thursday’s win and he says beating Nadal in such sublime fashion was the perfect reward for all his years of grinding in anonymity.
“Well, obviously all of that has made me to the person I am, tennis-wise and also as a person and as a character,” he said.
“And I guess all that led to this day today, which is probably the best day of my life so far.”
Brown, making his Centre Court debut, had never beaten a seeded player at a major before, but he felt his aggressive tactics could unnerve the out-of-form Nadal.
Brown, who was born in Germany to a Jamaican father and German mother, changed nationality from Jamaican to German in 2010 after becoming exasperated by a lack of support from the Jamaican tennis federation.
Last year he got a large portrait of his father tattooed on his stomach and he lifted his shirt to show off the etching in recognition of their contribution on a journey that had paid off at last with victory over Nadal.
“I don’t get to see my father that often,” Brown said.
“It’s been a very long road for me and my whole family.
“So that’s one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.”