Brady surprises herself with semi-final after hard lockdown

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 17, 2021 Jennifer Brady of the U.S. in action during her quarter final match against Jessica Pegula of the U.S. REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Having been locked down in hard quarantine, Jennifer Brady gave herself little chance of making an impression at the Australian Open before the tournament, but on Wednesday the American found herself within reach of a maiden Grand Slam final.

Brady booked her second major semi with a 4-6 6-2 6-1 win over United States team mate Jessica Pegula, and finished the match full of running despite a sweltering afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.

The 25-year-old former college player was one of the 72 players participants to train during their 14-day quarantine after they were declared "close contacts" of people who tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Australia.

Some of the 72 players complained bitterly about their limited preparations for the Grand Slam and said the hard lockdown was responsible for their eliminations.

Yet Brady focused only on the positives while detained in her hotel room, using the time to reflect and recharge after going "non-stop" since the middle of 2020.

"I didn't have any weeks off. Mentally I was feeling a little bit fried, to be honest," she told reporters.

"I think I used that two weeks to kind of reset mentally and also physically, just give myself, my mind, my body a little bit of a rest.

"I would say I didn't really have high expectations on myself to do well (at the Australian Open).

"I came out of the quarantine, then we were lucky enough to have a separate tournament for us who were in the hard lockdown.

"I was lucky to get a couple matches in there before starting here."

Brady will meet Czech surprise package Karolina Muchova, who stunned world number one Ash Barty, for a place in the final.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka battle in the other semi-final on Thursday.

Barring Muchova, the semi-finalists all reached the last four at the U.S. Open, an unusual consolidation after years of flux at the top of the women's game.

"I think it says a lot," said Brady, who was beaten by eventual champion Osaka at Flushing Meadows.

"They're obviously great, great tennis players, champions of the sport," she said of Williams and Osaka.

"To be categorised in the same group of them, I'll take that as an honour. It's a huge achievement for me to make the semi-finals here.

"Really just knowing I belong at this level, I can compete in the second week of Grand Slams consistently ... I mean, it obviously helps me, it benefits me moving forward."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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