MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Twelve months ago the thought of winning a Grand Slam would have appeared as far-fetched as a trip to Mars for Jennifer Brady but the Australian Open campaign taught the American that a major title was well within her reach.
The 22nd-seeded Brady suffered a heavy defeat in her maiden Grand Slam final on Saturday, falling to a 6-4 6-3 loss at Melbourne Park to Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
But the 25-year-old was not too disheartened.
“I think I belong at this level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable. It’s within reach,” Brady told reporters.
“Playing out there, obviously I was nervous, didn’t go my way, but at the same time coming off court, I was, like, ‘Okay, that feels a little bit normal’. It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like.
“If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t think it’s possible or it would feel like it’s, like, going to Mars.”
Brady did not take much time to come to her news conference after the 77-minute defeat to the third-seeded Osaka under the floodlights at the Rod Laver Arena and said going out to dinner was the first thing on her agenda.
She was definitely not headed back to the practice courts for a few days, the American added, saying she did not want to look at a tennis ball anytime soon.
Brady said she was nervous on court on Saturday but, despite her error-strewn performance, she enjoyed every minute playing in front of the fans during her maiden Grand Slam final and was confident it would not be her last.
“When it happens, I’ll be thrilled,” said Brady, who also lost to Osaka in the U.S. Open semi-finals in September. “When I’m put in that position or (have) given myself that opportunity, I think I’ll be ready for it.”
She felt a little sad finishing with the runner-up trophy but was “pretty happy” with her performance given the difficult buildup to the year’s first Grand Slam.
Brady was one of 72 players who spent two weeks locked inside their hotel rooms after arriving in Melbourne and was denied the chance to train for up to five hours a day like the majority of the field.
Of the contingent doing hard quarantine, 51 were singles players and only Brady made it past the third round.
“I made my first Grand Slam final, so maybe if I wasn’t in quarantine I would have won,” she said, before breaking into laughter. “Maybe.
“I don’t think it really hampered me much.
“But I think Australia is doing a great job. We’re able to live a normal life, go out for dinner, and that’s something that we haven’t done in a long time. I don’t want to leave Australia. Unfortunately I have to. Yeah, I’m a little bit sad about that.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ken Ferris)