After several big 2017 wins, Brengle seeks more success at U.S. Open

By Michael J. Lewis

Special to the State News

NEW YORK — It was a few days before the Australian Open, and Madison Brengle wanted to relax.

So she and some friends went out to a pub in Melbourne to have some fun before stepping into the crucible of pressure of a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Brengle was asked for ID by the bouncer. She presented her Delaware driver’s license to the man, and he immediately put it in his pocket.

Alarmed, Brengle asked why he did that.

His reply: “This is obviously a fake ID. Delaware isn’t even a real place.”

Dover’s Madison Brengle is all smiles during her upset of No. 2-ranked Serena Williams in New Zealand in January. (WTA via Getty Images)

“I was like, ‘That’s my driver’s license, I need that back,” Brengle recalled this week, laughing at the memory. “I said, ‘I hate to be this kind of person, but I’m going to need to speak to your manager. And the manager was like ‘I’m so sorry.’”

OK, so maybe Brengle’s home state isn’t as famous Down Under as it should be, but the 27-year-old Dover native certainly has made her name known in tennis in 2017.

The 5-foot-6 baseliner, who plays in the U.S. Open this week, has had two major victories this year, one over Serena Williams in Auckland, New Zealand in early January, and another over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round of Wimbledon in July.

“That was great because she’s a Wimby champion, and my mom (Gaby) was there to watch, to share it with me,” Brengle said. “I wanted to reach new goals that I hadn’t achieved this year, and one of them was at least winning two rounds at Wimbledon.”

Brengle’s current ranking of No. 80 in the world could go up with a strong showing in the U.S. Open.

She’ll also try to put last year’s miserable and controversial memories of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to rest when she faces Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the first round on Tuesday evening. Currently ranked No. 76, Flipkens has won both times they’ve played.

For Brengle, who sounded relaxed and happy during an interview on the National Tennis Center grounds on Friday, the 2016 U.S. Open was the one subject she was a little reluctant to discuss.

A few days before her first-round match against Kayla Day last August, members of tennis’ anti-doping program gave Brengle a random drug test, as all players are eligible to be subjected to.

For most players, it’s no big deal. But Brengle suffers from CRPS, a painful vein condition that causes her right arm to swell and makes it exceedingly hard to hold a racket.

The drug test triggered her CRPS, and after only one set against Day she had to retire.

“Part of me was really not looking forward to coming back here, because of what happened last year,” Brengle said.

She politely declined to speak about the drug test incident because she said litigation was pending in the matter.

“Now that I’m here, I’m happy to be playing my home Slam, but at the same time there’s still a little PTSD,” Brengle added.

One of Brengle’s coach, Pat Harrison, said considering all the injuries she’s battled this year, she’s done very well.

“She’s won a couple of Challenger (lower-level) tournaments, and when she’s physically been healthy, she’s played really well,” Harrison said. “Her court positioning and anticipation are probably top five in the world, and she’s now taken her forehand from a liability to now being a weapon.”

“For what I’ve been through. … I think I’m satisfied with the year,” Brengle said.

As Brengle spoke, final-round qualifying matches were going around all around her. Qualifying used to be a regular part of Brengle’s struggle on the tour, but with her ranking inside the top 100 the past few years, she hasn’t had to worry about that.

But after not making it into any Grand Slam events for six years of her career, Brengle doesn’t take for granted the thrill of playing the U.S. Open.

“If you lose that (appreciation), then what a waste,” Brengle said. “Growing up, this is what you think about, and if you get here finally and you’re just like ‘Ugh, whatever,’ then why do it? Part of what we play for are these moments, so I’m excited just to be here.”

Michael J. Lewis is a freelance writer living in New York.

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