As far as tennis opposites go, Rafael Nadal and Dustin Brown, who face off in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday, are right up there with the best of examples.
Brown, a German-Jamaican with long dreadlocks and an affinity to wearing mismatching shoes, is one of a handful of true serve-and-volleyers in today’s game, and his style is tailor-made for grass.
He comes to the net any chance he gets, can pull of ‘tweeners’ from the toughest positions and can throw in a diving volley every now and then.
If Nadal’s game is about discipline, Brown’s game thrives on chaos.
Brown has beaten Nadal in their only previous meeting, on the grass of Halle last year, in a performance the German described as “the match of his life”.
Nadal, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, will have to prepare himself for a player he calls “unusual”. Brown is one of only three active players – alongside Borna Coric and Nick Kyrgios - who have a positive head-to-head record against Nadal.
“It is difficult to think about how the match going to be. He's not a usual player. Anything can happen,” Nadal said of Brown.
“He beat me last year on Halle. It is little bit different, the surface and everything. It is a dangerous match. He's a tough player. He won today against good opponent like Yen-Hsun Lu. Probably he will come with good confidence. I going to try to be ready for it.”
Brown is not putting too much weight on his previous victory over the ex-world No1. The 30-year-old, ranked No102 in the world, is looking to match his best grand slam showing by making the third round.
“Obviously it’s going to be a great match. I’m very happy that I get to play him again. I don’t worry too much about last year’s match because I probably played the match of my life there,” Brown said.
“Grass is obviously the surface I want to play him on but on the other hand he’s a great champion and is the favourite to win. Right now I just want to recover and get ready, come out on Thursday and try to have fun against him. I have no pressure, I’ll try to play my best tennis and see what happens.”
Asked if he felt that Nadal’s invincible aura has diminished or disappeared following the Spaniard’s mixed results this season, Brown said: “I haven’t played against or been anywhere near him in a draw since last year. So I wasn’t worrying so much about him. A few weeks ago I was still playing a Challenger, so when I’m at a Challenger I don’t have to worry about Rafa’s aura. I try to look on the things I need to do and my own tennis.”
Also in action on Thursday is 2013 champion Andy Murray, who faces a familiar foe in the form of Dutch world No78 Robin Haase.
The pair faced off at the US Open last year in a first round that saw Murray overcome severe cramps to triumph in four sets.
“I don't know exactly what happened, but I had terrible cramps from very early on in the match. It was a very tough match for me to get through that one,” said Murray.
“But, yeah, he's a tough opponent. He likes grass. Enjoys playing on the big courts. So it will be tough.”