Aug/17

10

“You Stupid Person!” One US Open Qualifier’s Journey

klein“You stupid person,” and with that self-directed outburst, Brydan Klein, 27, the transplanted Brit from Australia, was summarily kicked out of a Challenger match against Sam Groth last month at the Wimbledon warmup event in Nottingham. The ejecting umpire was none other than Mohamed Lahyani, probably the most high-profile umpire in tennis. Lahyani was probably wrong in giving Klein the heave-ho right when Klein had missed a backhand into the net on a return of serve at set point to even the match against Groth at a set apiece. Yes, Klein had insulted an elderly woman lines person earlier in the match and had hit a ball out of the court receiving an abuse of ball penalty, but Klein’s “You stupid person” remark was meant as a personal verbal lashing. Unfortunately for the brash Brit, Lahyani did not see it as such.

As Klein enters the US Open Qualifying Tournament in less than two weeks on August 22nd at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY, he needs all the wins he can get. So far in 2017, Klein has won a total of one match on the ATP Tour, in his second event of the year in Auckland, New Zealand where he qualified and then won his first round match against the then 55th-ranked player in the world, the Argentine Facundo Bagnis. Klein then promptly lost in straight sets in the next round to the then 44th-ranked player, Joao Sousa of Portugal. Since then, the no. 167th ranked player, Klein has failed to qualify at any other ATP event and even after drawing a wildcard for Wimbledon, as befitting the no.5th-ranked British player, he lost in straight sets to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, only winning ten games in three sets. In total, as the Aussie-turned-Brit, gets ready to play in his 25th tournament of the year next week in a Challenger event in Vacouver, Klein has played in events on all three levels of professional tennis, Futures, Challengers and on the ATP Tour in 11 different countries and four different continents.

This peripatetic career is nothing new for Klein. He started playing pro tournaments when he was 15 in his native Australia and played in his first Grand Slam Qualifying event ten years ago when he was 17 at the Australian Open. He lost in the first round. He received a wild card into the Australian Open Main Draw the next year and lost in the first round to the then 100th-ranked Paul Capdeville of Chile in straight sets. Since then, Klein has played in the Main Draw of a Grand Slam event four more times, all via a wild card from either Britain or Australia, and won one match, against Bjorn Phau at the 2009 Australian Open. In the next round, he lost in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland. In the past decade, Klein has tried to qualify for a Grand Slam event, and he has played in all four Grand Slam Qualifying events, 15 times and has failed each time. One year, at the 2015 US Open Qualifying Tournament, he did reach the third and final round, only to lose to the then-ranked no. 131, Australian Matthew Ebden in straight sets. Otherwise, Klein has lost in the first round of Grand Slam Qualifying events 11 of the other 14 times he’s played in them ranging from Flushing Meadows to Wimbledon to Roland Garros to Melbourne.

Solidly-built, 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds, with crisp Stefan Edberg blond good-looks, Klein has never cracked the world’s top-100 (his career-high ranking was no. 118 in 2013) and he has achieved more notoriety on the court for his antics than fame for his play. In July 2009, Klein accepted a six-month ban from the ATP after racially abusing an opponent at a tournament in England. He used the racist term “kaffir” to describe South African player Raven Klassen at the grasscourt event in Eastbourne. He was suspended by the Australian Institute of Sport, meaning he received no funding, coaching or fitness support during the length of his ban. Klein agreed to complete a racial sensitivity course.

Last year, at a Challenger event in Knoxville, TN, playing against the young American, Frances Tiafoe, Klein engaged the umpire in a long debate about balls being mixed up in his match with the matches on nearby courts. His discourse seemed excessive and perhaps a ploy to unnerve Tiafoe, but the young American prevailed in three sets. Once at the Newport, RI ATP event, Klein became so enraged in a qualifying match that he threw his racket like a frisbee clear over the net from one side of the court to the other.

All that will be in the past when Klein comes to New York late next week to prepare for his first round US Open Qualifying Tournament match which will be played on either Tuesday August 22nd or on Wednesday August 23rd. The US Open is the only Grand Slam qualifying tournament that does not charge admission and while it once was the best kept secret in tennis, the secret is now out and although it is still free, thousands of fans, many die-hard tennis fans, flock to Flushing Meadows for the event. Any Grand Slam Qualifying event is a test in fortitude and perseverance as players have to win three matches in four days with the stakes being career-tilting high. A loss in the first round of the US Open Qualifying Tournament reaps a payday of $5,606. Winning your way through three qualifying matches, ensures a no. 100-and-above ranked player (generally ATP players in the top-100 receive direct entry into a Grand Slam main draw) a berth in the Big Dance where a first round appearance reaps $43, 313. A player like Klein can literally go from playing before a smattering of fans at a Futures or Challenger event to playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium against a top-10 player before many thousands of fans.

Klein’s journey will be covered match by match at Tennis-Prose.com with exclusive access to the colorful volatile Perth, Australia native.

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2 comments

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 10, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Dan, cool stuff. It’s sad that so few fans care bout grinders like Klein toiling away in obscurity.

    The challengers and qualies are great places to witness major outbursts too for those of us who enjoy such antics.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    167 in the world in soccer, hockey, football, baseball, basketball, auto racing and that person is probably a big star. 167 in pro tennis probably earns less money and has less fame than Severin Luthi, Danny Valverdu combined.

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