Arriving at the New York Open, Brayden Schnur had never won a tour-level match (0-5). In fact, the Canadian had only played three matches at ATP Tour events. To make matters worse, Schnur has had the flu for the two weeks.
But none of that has stopped the 23-year-old from playing some of the best tennis of his life. On Wednesday evening, Schnur defeated World No. 34 Steve Johnson for his first victory against an opponent inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings, advancing to the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 event.
“It feels great, I’m really happy. I’m really looking forward to going back and calling my parents and celebrating this win with them, and obviously my coach because I’m here alone this week, so I can’t celebrate with anyone here,” Schnur said. “It’s been a long road and I’ve had some really close battles with some Top 50 guys and I didn’t quite get over that hump. So today being down 5-3 in the third and saving some break points at 3-0, sometimes my mind can wander, but I hung tough and stayed in there. I’ll probably just tell them I love them and thanks for always supporting me.”
For a moment, it appeared Schnur would fall short of his big moment. First, Johnson served for the match at 5-3 in the decider. Then Schnur faced two match points on his own serve at 5-6. But calmly, he dismissed the first with an ace and the second with another big first serve, which elicited a return error.
“It’s a hard one. I’m just thinking about taking it one point at a time and in that specific situation I knew I had to make first serves,” said Schnur, who hit 18 aces in the match. “I was serving really well today.”
Schnur’s serve might not be the most orthodox on the ATP Tour, as he doesn’t bounce the ball and his toss is higher than most players’. But it was effective against Johnson, landing 72 per cent of his first serves and winning 76 per cent of those points.
While the qualifier will have his first day off of the tournament after playing matches on four consecutive days, his run is not over yet. Schnur has an opportunity to continue forward against 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi. The Italian has climbed as high as No. 33 in the ATP Rankings.