LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - Dreadlocked Wimbledon qualifier Dustin Brown has no coach and used to travel to tournaments in a camper van but on Wednesday he enjoyed his greatest success at a grand slam by knocking out former champion Lleyton Hewitt.
“Did that just happen?” he asked after a fairytale second-round victory that reduced him to tears. “I cried like a little girl,” he confessed after beating the veteran Australian he used to watch on television when he was a child.
Brown, nicknamed “Dreddy” for his dreadlocks, has a German mother, Inge, and a Jamaican father, Leroy. He switched nationality from Jamaica to Germany in 2010.
This was by far his biggest victory in any grand slam.
He never dared celebrate his passage into the third round until the very end against a dogged opponent whose motto has always been “never say never.”
Brown, ranked 189 in the world, said of Hewitt: “He would play for 10 sets and wouldn’t care.”
After wearing down the indomitable Aussie with a 6-4 6-4 6-7(6) 6-2 victory, the 28-year-old said: ”I have been close to winning big matches but never quite got it together.
“After losing that third set tiebreak, it was tough. It was like I just got to keep playing. I have got to take a look at that fourth set on tape!”
Defeat was a bitter blow for Hewitt, who knocked out 11th-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round.
The Australian has battled a string of injuries to keep his career afloat having won Wimbledon in 2002 before losing in the first round the next year to Ivo Karlovic.
“I just couldn’t really get my teeth into the match,” said a frustrated Hewitt. Asked if he would definitely be back next year, he said “Yeah, definitely. We’ll see.”
He was cheered on by the raucous Hewitt “dirty dozen” fan club who chanted “That’s the way I like it” after their diminutive hero won his serve. Next came a chorus of “If you love Lleyton Hewitt, clap your hands.”
The bellowing Aussies did not deter Brown. He knows all about Hewitt’s extrovert supporters. “He is a national hero ... I just tried to stay focused,” he said.
A shell-shocked Brown, who meets Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the next round, shook his head in disbelief before the tears flowed. “It’s going to take a while to sink in. I used to watch him (Hewitt) playing when I was a child.”
Disillusioned with what he saw as a lack of funding and support from Jamaica’s ruling tennis body, Brown decided to switch to the land of his birth.
“I‘m proud to be Jamaican, I‘m proud to be German. It was just a decision because of the federation. I didn’t want to represent the federation anymore,” he told reporters after his second-round triumph at a sun-kissed Wimbledon.
It had even been suggested he could take British nationality through his paternal grandparents. But he said on Wednesday: “That train has passed.”
Long gone now are the days when he slept in the camper van bought by his parents on the challenger circuit. But he has not spurned his former travelling home.
“I still have the van. It’s parked at my parents’ place,” he said. (Reporting by Paul Majendie; Editing by Ken Ferris)