Tennis Prose



Remembering Karsten Braasch

The unorthodox German lefthander Karsten Braasch is probably most remembered for beating Venus and Serena Williams in practice sets at the 1998 Australian Open.

Born in 1967, Braasch turned pro in 1987 and retired in 2005. Though he never won an ATP singles title, he did reach a career best ranking of 38 in 1994. He reached the third round at AO and US Open and the second round at Wimbledon, but he never won a round at Roland Garros.

Braasch did reach the finals of Rosmalen but lost 63 64 to Richard Krajicek in 1994. He won six ATP doubles titles and made the QF or Roland Garros in doubles in 1997 and 2004.

But it was those two practice sets with the Williams sisters that became legendary and are still talked about today. Ranked 203 at the time in 1998 at age 30, the Williams sisters were 16 and 17 and had boasted about being able to beat an ATP player ranked 200. Braasch took them up on the challenge and beat Serena 61 and Venus 62. (Braasch lost in the first round of the 1998 AO to 25 ranked Alberto Berasategui 63 36 46 36. Serena lost in 2r, Venus lost in QF.)

In recent years, Braasch has played ITF Senior tournaments in Europe and also in Miami.

Here are some memories of the one and only Karsten Braasch, famous for his unique serve motion, wearing glasses on court, smoking cigarettes on court and his eccentric nutritional regimen.

Wayne Hosh: Many people don’t know, when he beat the Williams, it allegedly started when he was in the tournament office the day before and they were bragging about how they could beat the no. 200 man….Braasch thought: I’m around that! So he took them up on it.The next day, he played a morning round of golf, had lunch, and then had it out with Serena and then Venus. Nick Bollietierri was helping coach the Williams at that time, and even he admitted to observers that Braasch was being “nice” to them – just using junk and heavy spin. Braasch himself said that he was just using a lot more spin than the women could hit to them, and ran down what would have been winners against the other women. Afterward Braasch said they had no chance against anyone in the top 500, and that he had played like 600 to keep it entertaining.

Guillermo Rivas: Karsten was great … so funny to be with and also so funny to play against … I would love to see him playing today and leaving the cigarettes on the fence to smoke in between the points.

Michael Baz: The first time I met Karsten was at the Memphis tournament. I was outside by the stadium entrance, having a cigarette. He came up to me and he bummed a cigarette. We started talking, and I asked him if he lived in Memphis. He told me he was a player, and I thought to myself- sure you are. The next day I went to the center court to shoot the match and there he was, warming up. It gets better. The following year, at the U.S. Open, I saw his name in the draw and decided to shoot his match. He obviously saw me, because when the match ended, after he shook the umpire’s hand, he came over and asked me, Can I have a cigarette? How can you not love a guy like that?

Braasch finished his ATP career with a match record of 68-96 in singles and 103-128 in doubles. He earned $1,497, 244 in prize money and holds singles wins against Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Andrei Medvedev, Jeff Tarango, Derrick Rostagno, Mark Woodforde, Marc Rosset, Andrei Pavel, Aaron Krickstein, Magnus Gustafsson, Andrei Cherkasov and he won a set from eventual champion Pete Sampras at 1995 Wimbledon (first round).

Braasch played his last official match was in 2007 at Dusseldorf Challenger, a doubles loss with Mark Joachim to Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay 63 64.

His last singles match was in 2001 at Aachen Challenger, while ranked 1381 he lost to 115 ranked Ivo Hueberger 36 75 36.

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