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April 24, 1991 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-04-24

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 24, 1991 - Page 17

'Cocky'

Brakus can back it up

Rookie's confidence, power place him among nation's elite

Albert Lin
Daily Sport Writer
Danny Brakus is confident. You
might even call him cocky.
But Danny Brakus has an excuse:
he is a tennis player.
Brakus came to Michigan as the
third-ranked junior in Canada and a
member of the Canadian Junior
National Team. His parents, who
migrated to Canada from Serbia,
instilled in him . the value of hard
work. His attitude developed from
years of international success at the
junior level.
"It's just something you learn, I
guess, and you have to have it, if you
want to get better," he says. "You
have to show the other guy that no,
you're not going to lose. It's a mind
game, basically, to show you're
stronger than the other guy.
"I think you have to be confident
in yourself if you want to be good.
Anybody can believe in you, but if
you don't believe in yourself, it's
not going to help you at all. You
have to believe in yourself if you
want to get any better, and I want to
get a lot better."
Brakus' skill level is already
bove many players in the NCAA,
his 19-10 mark thus far through
'his initial campaign attests. For his
efforts this season, Michigan's No.
2 singles player has earned Region
IV (the Big Ten plus Ball State,
Bowling Green, Northern Illinois,
Notre Dame and Western Michigan)
Freshman-of-the-Year honors.
At the Big Ten Indoor
Championships last fall, Brakus de-
#eated Ty Tucker of Ohio State, who
reached the round of 16 in last year's
NCAA Championships. Brakus
went on to the semifinals, where he
fell to teammate David Kass.
Brakus' game is in complete con-
trast with that of Kass. The latter is
a baseliner who has the ability to sit
back and wait for his opponent to
make a mistake: While Brakus does
not have that luxury, his 6-foot-3
Wize allows him another.
"He has just tremendous
power," Michigan coach Brian
Eisner says. "When I say power, I
mean not only in serving, but power
up at the net in his volleying, power
in his groundstrokes. His game
comes from a real power base, and is

what I call a 'finishing'-type game
... And that's a great kind of style
to have, because if you do those
things well, you can go out and beat
peop1le. You don't have to worry
about people losing to you, you can
just go out and overpower people."
Touring at the junior level pre-
pared Brakus for the grind of a col-
lege season. He travelled with two
of his best friends, and they worked
as a team, much like it is at
Michigan. While his two compan-
ions are now on the professional cir-
cuit, Brakus did not follow their
lead.
"I think the university is just
something you shouldn't miss," he
says. "I mean, if I knew I was going
to be in the top 50 in the world
one of the 50 best players in the
world - making hundreds of thou-
sands of dollars, I definitely would
have done that route. But right now,
I'm not that good.
"I just felt like it's better if I
came here. At least I could get my
education in the next couple of
years, while I was working on my
game. If things don't work out, let's
say I get hurt, like I have some in-
jury, I can always go back to my aca-
demics."
Ultimately, Brakus hopes to be
one of the top 100 players in the
world. He has already beaten a
member of that elite group, Leif
Shiras, but he knows he has a long
way to go before he himself is part
of that club, and he is willing to put
in the time necessary to attain that
objective.
"The (Michigan) coaches are re-
ally making an effort to help me
out, to be the best player I can be,
because eventually, two, three, four
years down the road, I want to try
and make a living out of playing
tennis," he says.
"So they understand that, and
they want to help me out ... But I
don't think it's so much that they're
helping me, I think it's just they're
working with me. That I want to do
it, so that they're willing to do it.
It's not like they're telling me
something that's helping me.
There's nothing more they can tell.
There's nothing more you can learn,
it's just a matter of working hard at

it everyday."
One of the things Eisner has tried
to correct is Brakus' tendency to
play poorly against lesser oppo-
nents. The coach has tried to instill a
competitive fire in all his players,
through his philosophy that, "We
either drive at 65 or 70 miles an
hour, or we don't drive.
"You only play one way, and you
don't grade the level of competi-
tion, but you grade the level of the
way you play."
Brakus denies that he underesti-
mates his foes, but does admit to
some complacency on the court.
Sometimes, it is too easy for him.
"Maybe when I play someone
from Kalamazoo, or some (tennis)
refugee schools, then I don't really
care, because then they're so bad, it's
just a waste of my time, basically,"
he says. "That's kind of cocky, but it
is a waste of my time, to be truth-
ful. I just hate playing against guys
that shouldn't be there. Why am I
playing? They should be playing all
the other bad schools."
Despite this apparent disdain for
some of the finer points of college
tennis, Brakus does realize he can
learn a lot at Michigan.
"College tennis is so much dif-
ferent. It's unbelievably intense.
There's a fight every single match,"
he says. "There's always something,
a little argument, a dispute. It's just
so intense that it helps mentally.
Even if it doesn't help your game
out, because you're not playing
against better players, but still
you're improving the mentally."
Brakus' game may have hit a wall
at the Big Ten Indoors. Since that

tournament, he has been mired in a
minor slump, though his record does
not entirely indicate that. Part of
the reason may be the loss of his
serve as a weapon. "I don't hit it as
hard as I used to, I don't hit it where
I want to, and I don't put enough
in," he says. He doesn't know ex-
actly what the problem is, but with
hard work over the summer, includ-
ing playing in satellite tournaments
and practicing with professionals,
he thinks he will regain his touch. If
not, he has a backup plan.
"My uncle helps me a lot with
my game. He helps me with my
serve, so hopefully he'll work the
magic when I go back (home),"he
laughs.
Before he embarks on the ATP
tour, Brakus envisions himself at
the top of college tennis. He plans
to stay a Wolverine at least three
years, and at that point wants to be
the No. 1 player in the NCAA.
Eisner knows this phenom has all
the tools to get there. Michigan first
"He can play with anybody in excels becaus
the United States," he says. "When IV Freshman-(
he plays his game, and he plays the
way he is capable of playing, there's
nobody on any (college) team in any
part of the country that he can't
play competitively with. He's that
level of player.
"He's got the personality where
it's very important for him to im-
prove. He wants to improve, but yet
he's a perfectionist, and he's never
quite happy even though he's im-
proved to a certain level. He always
thinks he can get better."

-year tennis star and No. 2 singles player Dan Brakus
se of his confidence and his power. Brakus won the Region
of-the-Year award this season.
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