A year ago, Brandon Holt’s right hand was in a cast after potentially career-ending hand surgery.
“His career was in jeopardy,” his mother, Tracy Austin, told the Post. “He’s come back and gotten stronger, so he’s even more grateful.”
Holt will appreciate Monday night at the US Open.
Holt, who had returned to the Tour’s bottom ranks in February, finished in 925th place. meets US star Taylor Fritz in a first round match on The Grandstand. (The game starts at around 6 p.m.).
Holt, a 24-year-old Native American from Rolling Hills, California, received a wild card into the Open qualifier. Last week he reeled off three straight wins against top 150 opponents, including surviving the deciding match after two long rain delays.
Now Holt, who first played singles at USC, is at the US Open – an event his mother, now 59, captured in 1979 and 1981.
“He beat three guys back-to-back-to-back in the 100s so that’s a great feat, all three sets,” said Austin, a longtime broadcaster for the Tennis Channel and BBC. “He had such wins so it wasn’t a complete shock but it’s wonderful.”
To conquer the grandstand hard court next to Grand Central Parkway is a far cry from Winnipeg, Cancun, Lexington, Kentucky and Nottingham, England — backwoods tennis outposts where he struggled after eight months at the bottom-level ITF tournament.
There are three levels of professional tennis – the ITF events are similar to Single-A-Baseball.
The mother describes herself as the “architect” of her son’s career, but not as a coach. She has done a lot of rebuilding after Holt was diagnosed with an extremely rare benign fourth metacarpal tumor. Doctors were confused about how to perform the surgery without ending his career.
“It was very difficult,” Austin said.
Austin says “leadership” is her most important influence on Holt’s tennis journey.
“I was involved in finding the right coach, consulting with the coach and following the lessons,” Austin said. “But I want the information to be given out by the coach so I can stay ‘mom’. It’s cleaner that way.”
When Austin discusses tennis with her son, she chooses her seats.
“It’s not a lot of tennis — mostly it’s life,” Austin said. “I choose my words carefully. It must be really important to me to move up. If he knows I’m saying something, it’s something important.”
Throughout his career, she has advised him “to be mental about yourself on the pitch and use tactics to navigate games. All things I’ve been through.”
Holt carved out an All-American career at USC, where he was the first singles player in all four years and reached the NCAA singles quarterfinals. But now this is the biggest stage, and he must face Fritz, a fellow Southern California man he has known for years.
“You come all the way here playing someone you’ve been friends with since you were nine,” Austin said.