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Central Pa. native 'happy' with herself after her best-ever Grand Slam tennis showing

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
Jennifer Brady, of the United States, returns a shot to Naomi Osaka, of Japan, during a semifinal match of the US Open tennis championships, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A central Pennsylvania native fell two wins short of winning her first Grand Slam tennis championship.

Still, for Jennifer Brady, the 2020 U.S. Open would have to be considered a great success.

Brady lost in the Open semifinals on Thursday night to eventual champion Naomi Osaka, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 in a hard-hitting match filled with fast serves and strong forehands.

It was Brady's best-ever performance in a Grand Slam.

Osaka served at up to 120 mph; Brady reached 117 mph. And they pounded the ball once it was in play, too, particularly off the forehand side.

"Maybe she was the more aggressive player today," Brady said of Osaka. "I'm pretty happy with myself, with my effort, and my mentality.

"I treated each match as the same, came in with the same mentality. The only goal I had was just to compete on every single point. I felt like that's what I did."

Brady and Osaka combined for 70 winners — 35 apiece — to just 42 unforced errors, each as good as the other, and it took a bit of luck to swing things after 1 hour, 45 minutes.

That’s when, at 2-1 in the third set, Osaka earned her first break point with a backhand that clipped the net tape and trickled over. She was able to convert the chance when she hit a deep return of a 110 mph serve, and Brady’s backhand in response was called long — although a television replay showed it actually caught a piece of the back of the baseline.

Brady did not challenge the ruling.

Ashe is one of only two courts at the U.S. Open using line judges this year; to reduce the number of people on site, the tournament used electronic line-calling in the other arenas.

Osaka would go on to win the Open championship with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka on Saturday night. It was Osaka's second U.S. Open championship and third Grand Slam title overall. Azarenka is a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The 25-year-old Brady, meanwhile, came into the U.S. Open with a much lower profile and was seeded No. 28.

The 5-foot, 10-inch Brady was born in Harrisburg and she made her first semifinal in 13 Grand Slam appearances and was coming off her first Women's Tennis Association title when she took the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, in August.

Brady, who is now based in Florida, grew up in the Cumberland Valley School District until she was about 9, when her family moved to Florida, where she attended Chris Evert's tennis academy.

Her family ties in the central Pennsylvania region still run deep. Her father, Pat, graduated from Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Adams County, where he was a standout football player and later an NCAA Division II All-America linebacker at East Stroudsburg University.

Two of her cousins were also standout athletes at Delone. Nick Brady excelled in basketball for the Squires and later for York College. Jason Brady was a star football lineman at Delone who later excelled for Shippensburg University.

Jennifer Brady still has relatives in the Hanover-Adams area.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.