Novak Djokovic may have won Wimbledon by beating Roger Federer in a classic final—again!—but that tournament’s most memorable match also occurred on center court. That’s where Dustin Brown, a tall, sinewy German-Jamaican with dreadlocks that haven’t been cut since 1996, beat Rafael Nadal the way the legendary Spaniard often beats opponents—by pummeling him into submission.
Over four relatively easy sets, the 31-year-old Brown, ranked 102 in the world at the time, frustrated the 14-time Grand Slam champion by mixing powerful strokes with a frenetic pace. Though Brown went on to lose in the next round, the win over Nadal earned him—a player who’d never been able to afford a coach, and who for years called his VW van “home”—his biggest payday ever ($119,000) and allowed him to crack the top 100 for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve not changed anything,” he says, “but I’m more mature and learning my game a lot better, and feeling more calm and controlled on the court.” His financial struggles “led me to where I am now.” They also taught him how to manage his diet and fitness in a way that’s easily summed up. “I don’t have a nutrition plan. I eat what I want, and I don’t have a problem with my body weight.”
What’s his secret, then? “I practice. You go to tournaments and try to do your best…You can always improve everything.”