Earlier this month, the New York Times’ Matt Futterman wrote Looking for More Frances Tiafoes, delving into the identification and development of talented, tennis playing, American males of African descent.
“Black American men have not had a Grand Slam champion to look up to since Arthur Ashe in the 1970s, and have had precious few billboard-worthy top Black players to admire.”
“Maybe one day they will have Frances Tiafoe, who is Black and played one of the most compelling matches in U.S. Open history,” Futterman wrote.
A USTA National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) alum, Browning grew up playing at the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education Center (formerly Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis & Education) and on the tennis courts of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.
A member of the Class of 2021 (Pennsylvania’s number one ranked junior, #22 nationally according to Tennis Recruiting Network), “Young T” chose to pursue a path to becoming an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) touring professional.
In recent months, theoretically his second year of college, Browning has gained immeasurable knowledge on and off the court – a form of higher education for young professional tennis players.
“Since winning the ATA (American Tennis Association) Men’s Open, I’ve experienced a serious learning curve on and off the court,” Browning explained. He plans to enter several lower level pro tournaments to close out the 2022 season while pursuing investors and funding.
“I’m preparing to play a few ITF World Tennis Tour events with the goal of competing on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2023. Winning the ATAs I received a wildcard to an ITF World Tennis Tour 15s, which offers $15,000 in prize money and ITF World Tennis ranking points,” said Browning.
This is the second wildcard the NJTL lifer and former USTA Foundation Excellence Team player has received in the past three years.
A former USTA Middle States Section standout, Browning won the 2019 Wild Card Shootout at the USTA All-American College Combine earning a spot in the main draw of an ITF World Tennis Tour M25 event held in Arkansas.
“I know I can always compete at that level,” said a 16-year-old Browning after bowing out in the first round of his professional debut.
His confidence was recently boosted when veteran ATP Tour player, Nick Kyrios, told him he is “ready” to compete on the pro tour.
“We connected at the Citi Taste of Tennis in New York, right before the (U.S.) Open and he arranged for me to be his hitting partner during the tournament,” said Browning.
“Totally unexpected! I had to adjust my training schedule and find accommodation to be available for Nick. He’s been there for me over the years, since I was like nine years old. Of course I figured out how to stay up there and get some training in during our practice sessions.”
By week two, Browning had participated in hitting sessions with Sloane Stephens and Frances Tiafoe’s brother, Franklin, in between match prep sessions with Kyrgios.
Browning classifies his relationship with Kyrgios as one that is based on a love of the game and true friendship with elements of a mentor/mentee connection. The six foot athlete, with a big forehand and serve, compared his time in Flushing Meadows, alongside the world’s #20 ranked player, to “an intense, executive education program at Harvard or Wharton Business School.”
“From the scheduling, time management, engaging media, having conversations with agents and potential sponsors, my time at the Open was the best learning environment I’ve ever been in.”
“I mean, I had experiences equivalent to what professors refer to when teaching courses or curriculum in Ivy League institutions. I gained practical experience interacting with hospitality industry professionals like Penny Learner of Philly-based At Your Service Marketing firm. She allowed me to participate in the Citi Taste of Tennis event, teaching me about how to produce a world-class sports and entertainment event,” a thoughtful Browning shared uninterrupted.
“Seeing how she managed her partnerships and sponsor relationships with people in the hospitality, fashion, culinary arts, and the food and beverage industries is invaluable. Not to mention, reconnecting Nick and I.”
A presence in Kyrgios’ team box during the Aussie’s 2022 U.S. Open campaign, Browning credits Daniel “Horse” Horsfall and Stu Duguid of Evolve talent agency with teaching him what a sports and fashion collaboration looks like.
“Naomi’s sister Mari and Stu collaborated with Mike Cherman’s apparel company, Market, and Concepts’ New York store to make a t-shirt exclusively for the U.S. Open,” Browning continued.
“Horse wore one of the shirts during one of Nick’s matches. Because Nick engages with Horse, Will (Maher, Kyrgios’ physiotherapist) and Costeen (Hatzi, Kyrgios’ girlfriend) so much during matches, the cameras captured Horse and the shirt a lot. That earned marketing strategy was brilliant!”
Kyrgios signed a “lucrative deal” with Netflix that gave producers of the show exclusive access during his memorable run to the 2022 Wimbledon final. Cameras recorded the practice sessions at the U.S. Open., obtaining footage of Kyrgios’ personal best performance in the last Grand Slam of the year.
“I learned so much about the business of tennis and how I can pursue solidifying my place in the tennis industry as a player and businessman,” said Browning, who founded the brand Want The Ball alongside his father, Tauheed R. Browning.
The seemingly measured learner prides himself on listening, being coachable and executing to the best of his abilities, at a high level. The off court experiences and teachable moments at the Open appear to have ignited a fire within Browning that he intends to take to the courts very soon.
“I’m excited to produce results in the tournaments I’ve entered to finish off this year, especially in the $15K (ITF World Tennis Tour 15s),” said Browning, who has won several Battle of Boca and Casely Tennis Academy UTR prize money events this year.
“I was in the hallowed halls of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong and all over the grounds of one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. Something like $350 million dollars was generated at this year’s Open,” Browning shared.
“Seeing the sausage making of how to earn a living as a professional tennis player, my eyes were open to so many facades of the tennis industry that will benefit me for years to come.”