NEWPORT — The son of tennis royalty is trying to carve out a name for himself in the game.
Brandon Holt, whose mother is 1992 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Tracy Austin, won an Infosys Hall of Fame Open qualifier over the weekend before missing the main draw with a loss on Monday .
The 24-year-old has just recovered from a hand injury that kept him out of action for eight months, but he is slowly learning what it takes to compete at the highest level.
“You need a hunger or a love to play tennis – or both, probably,” said Holt, who is ranked No. 332 in the world. “I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice too much because I play tennis as a job. But I’m very happy to play here and everyone has a reason why they’re here.
Tracy Austin was the youngest person to win the US Open in 1979
Austin was a world No. 1 who recorded 335 match wins and 30 career titles. In 1979, she became the youngest at 16 years and 9 months to win the US Open when she defeated Chris Evert in straight sets. Two years later, she won the tournament again.
It marked Holt’s second trip to the Hall of Fame after seeing Lindsay Davenport inducted in 2014. Over the weekend, he walked through the museum with his father – Tracy will arrive on Tuesday, he said – and came across a dress her mother wore to a game when she was a teenager.
“It was cool to see – her dress is so small,” said Holt, who looks a lot like her mom. “We went there and checked out and walked around the whole place. I hadn’t done that year in years.
Holt was born in 1998, four years after Austin retired from professional tennis and six years after taking her place among the team’s greats in Newport. He said he was never pushed into tennis, but naturally gravitated to it.
“I have an older brother and a younger brother, and we’ve all played all sports,” he said. “I played baseball, and that was the last sport I quit other than tennis. But I played everything: soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis.
Holt said he didn’t take tennis very seriously until he reached high school and ended up playing for the University of Southern California. When his college career ended in the spring of 2020, he turned pro during the height of the COVID pandemic.
Then he injured his hand, so he’s just starting his professional career.
“I’m scheduled for a very busy swing on hard court right now,” said Holt, who lost a 6-1, 6-3 decision to Briton Liam Broady on Monday. “Honestly, I’m just happy to be healthy.”
Holt says he feels no pressure despite being the son of a Hall of Famer.
“I don’t know anything different,” he said. “I grew up with it all my life. I don’t know what it would be like not to have that, so I don’t feel as much pressure. Maybe people think I should, but I don’t.
Peter Gojowczyk first to cut
As the main draw kicked off on Monday, Germany veteran Peter Gojowczyk was the first to clinch his ticket to the knockout stages with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Ugo Humbert on Stadium Court.
Gojowczyk is making his third Newport appearance and has enjoyed success, reaching the semi-finals here in 2017 and advancing to the quarter-finals a year ago. Not only is the 32-year-old having fun on the pitch, but away from it.
“I feel comfortable here. I like being here. The city is beautiful,” he said. “You can walk to the port. It’s also good for us players to have a short distance. It’s good.”
So what does Gojowczyk like to eat when he’s in a beach town?
“A lobster roll,” he says. “There are so many good restaurants in the harbour. You can choose whatever you want.
A Newport Fan
American Steve Johnson turned pro in 2012 and has only missed this event twice in his career, including one of his four career titles in 2018. Why does he keep coming back? Because it’s different from a lot of tournaments on the ATP Tour.
“I feel like I’ve seen a lot of Newport and I like it. That’s why I come here,” said Johnson, who attended the Newport Gulls game on Monday night after their straight-set win over Stefan Kozlov. “It’s the week after a Slam. Stress and anxiety are always heightened at a Slam. You come here and it’s a low paced event.
“I can walk to the courts. I can walk to dinner. I’m not going to get in a car for a week, which is great. It’s just an interesting dynamic and I’ve always enjoyed coming here. When it works and you’re healthy, it’s a place I think I can do well, that’s why I come back.”
Eyes on Jason Kubler
One player to watch this week is Jason Kubler. While his current world ranking of No. 102 will hardly make your head spin, the Aussie has advanced to the knockout stages at Wimbledon after qualifying.
“I was definitely playing well,” he said. “Mentally, it’s the biggest step I’ve taken in the last few months, just in terms of consistency on the court and dealing with my emotions. … It was kind of just riding the wave. I was playing d somehow, and then I continued to seize the opportunity.
In the first round on Monday, he kept the momentum going with a 6-2, 6-3 decision over compatriot Jordan Thompson. Kubler, 29, has never won an ATP level tournament. If he wants to win the Van Alen Cup on Sunday, he will have to beat Canada’s ninth and first seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in the next round.
“In all my games I play for those opportunities,” he said. “If I can play well in the big moments of the game, I will. If I have an opportunity, I will try to grab it with both hands.
Query-Murray matches all speech
Looking ahead to Tuesday, the buzz will be around the first-round match between American Sam Querrey and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Andy Murray.
Murray, 35, is making his first Newport appearance since 2006, when he was 19 and two years into his professional career. Since then, the infallible Hall of Famer has held the world No. 1 ranking, won Wimbledon twice, the US Open once and collected a pair of Olympic gold medals.
His current world ranking is No. 52 and he is ranked No. 6 in the 28-man squad.
Querrey is no stranger to Newport, making his eighth appearance. His best performance was in 2009, when he lost in the final to fellow countryman Rajeev Ram. The 34-year-old Californian is ranked No. 252 in the world.
Tuesday’s match will be the second between Murray and Querrey at Newport Casino. Murray posted a 7-5, 6-2 win over then-rookie Querrey in 2006.
New options for fans
What’s new this year at the Hall of Fame Open? For starters, the way to get into the Newport casino. The main gate was moved from its traditional location on Bellevue Avenue to along Memorial Boulevard.
Once inside, fans will be greeted by a trio of game booths, where they can test their serve speed, work on their golf chips or perfect their tennis forehand. This is also where visitors can grab a snack as vendors and picnic tables line the walk to the courts.
The historic Horseshoe Court at the front of the property has been transformed into an outdoor lounge, complete with sofas and beanbags, plus cornhole boards to pass the time between games.
“The visitor experience is redesigned and enhanced with an all-new interactive fan zone on Memorial Boulevard and much more to do and see onsite,” said Tournament Director Brewer Rowe. “This week the Hall of Fame is a great place to spend the day enjoying world class tennis and so much more.”
Hewitt in the room
On Saturday night, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Lleyton Hewitt will take his place among the greats when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Kubler, who was born in Brisbane, said Hewitt had carried the tennis torch for the country for years.
“When I was growing up, he was the one on TV. He was really our guy,” Kubler said. “He was No. 1 for about 80 weeks. During his time, I don’t think we really had someone else at that level. He was steering the ship for us. I don’t think there were too many players who had something similar to what he had.
The two got to know each other on a personal level during the Davis Cup match, when Kubler was a member of the team and Hewitt was captain.
“There are a few more jokes now when I see him. I’m not as nervous when I see it,” Kubler said. “It was great watching him when I was growing up, but even more so asking him for advice or even talking to him about his experiences. I feel like I’m getting better just by being with him.
Liam Broady (2), Great Britain, def. Brandon Holt, USA, 6-1, 6-3. William Blumberg, USA, def. Noah Rubin, USA, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Mitchell Krueger (3), USA, def. Gage Brymer, USA, 6-1, 6-4. USA’s Christopher Eubanks (4) beats. Mirza Basic (8), Bosnia and Herzegovina, 7-6, 7-5.
round of 16
Peter Gojowczyk, Germany, def. Ugo Humbert, France, 7-5, 6-4. Jason Kubler, Australia, def. Jordan Thompson, Australia, 6-2, 6-3.
Round of 16
Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson, USA, def. Adrian Mannarino and Quentin Halys, France, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7. Marcelo Melo, Brazil, and Raven Klaasen (1), South Africa, def. Serbia’s Ivan Sabanov and Matej Sabanov, 6-2, 6-4. John-Patrick Smith, Australia, and Ramkumar Ramanathan, India, def. Hans Hach Verdugo, Mexico, and Hunter Reese (2), USA, 6-3, 6-4.