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Brienne Minor: ‘This was an amazing first experience’

NCAA singles champion relishes her US Open debut despite loss

NEW YORK — Stepping to the baseline just before her first serve of her US Open debut, Brienne Minor took a deep breath as she surveyed her surroundings.

In the near distance was Arthur Ashe Stadium, where greats such as the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have solidified their reputations. On both sides of her were dozens of boisterous supporters who cheered loudly as she took the court. In front of her was Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, the 99th-ranked player in the world.

“A lot of emotions,” Minor said afterward. “I was both nervous and excited.”

At the start, Minor appeared in control of the moment, calmly winning the first game and giving her fans hope. But Minor failed to win a game the rest of the set, and Jabeur seized control on her way to a 6-1, 7-5 opening-round win.

In the immediate aftermath, Minor, the University of Michigan student who received a wild card after winning the NCAA Division I tennis title in May, was extremely disappointed with the results. By the time she met with reporters less than an hour after the match, she was appreciative of the opportunity.

“This was an amazing first experience,” Minor said, wearing a “Hail to the Victors” T-shirt. “I wanted to play longer points and be in the match. I don’t feel like I gave her a real good first set. That cost me.”

It cost Minor big time. Minor was broken in her second service game, ending it with consecutive double faults. She double-faulted three more times her next time serving and was broken again.

Brienne Minor of the United States returns a shot against Ons Jabeur of Tunisia during their second-round women’s singles match on day three of the 2017 US Open.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

As she double-faulted to end the first set, giving her seven at that stage of the match, Minor raised her racket over her head as if she was going to drive it into the hardcourt pavement.

“The strange thing is she had been serving great all week,” said Mark Bey, Minor’s private coach who has worked with her the past 10 years. “I had been worried about some other things. With nerves and adrenalin, the serve is one of the first things to go.”

Minor appeared to shake those nerves in winning, as she broke Jabeur twice to start the second set, going up 3-0.

“The crowd was cheering, and I think that helped,” Minor said. “I just refocused, took more breaths and took my time on my serve.”

But instead of carrying the momentum, Minor was broken in her next three service games, taking the air out of her vocal supporters.

Minor was able to tie the second set at 5-5, and she twice had opportunities to break Jabeur and seize control of the set. But Jabeur had two aces in her last three service points to take a 6-5 lead and broke Minor to close the match.

“I really wanted to play longer points,” Minor said. “I didn’t play too bad today. But, again, the biggest thing was nerves.”

Minor will go home to train for a few days and then move into her apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as she prepares to enter her junior year. She’ll return to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center next week to play in the US Open collegiate division.

“That’ll be like the NCAAs all over again,” Minor said. “I know the players, I know their games. So it should be different.”

For the past week, Minor has taken in all New York has to offer with her family, thoroughly enjoying the experience.

“So many streets, so many restaurants,” Minor said, smiling. “So many places for desserts.”

Dessert is her weakness, and it’s been customary for Minor, after matches, to indulge in some form of chocolate.

As she departed Wednesday night, Minor was on a mission.

“We’ve passed this cupcake place near the hotel all week, and she’s really been craving that,” said her older sister Jasmine. “This has been a big accomplishment for her, and we’re all proud, so proud of what she’s done, so I’m sure that’s where we’ll end up.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at The Undefeated. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.