Having come up from this end before, Brett Hansen-Dent knows all
about the trials and tribulations of playing the challenger circuit in
men's professional tennis.
These days, though, he's older and wiser, and has more healed muscles
and joints than his CIF Southern Section singles championship form could
have ever imagined over a decade ago.
But the former Newport Harbor High sensation hopes that this time, his
third tour of pro tennis duty, will be the charm.
"Oh, yeah, I'm serious (about another comeback). You have to be these
days," Hansen-Dent said. "I was serious before, but I was kind of a young
guy and didn't know too much. Then, I played with a bad leg. You don't
realize how important it is to be in shape to track down all the balls,
if you can even get to the balls."
Following his 1990 CIF singles title for Newport Harbor under Coach
Charlie Bleiker, Hansen-Dent played at UCI for two years and then briefly
joined the globe-trotting satellite and challenger circuits in 1993.
But Hansen-Dent, ranked No. 1 in 1990 in the boys 18s in Southern
California, got a rude awakening. His expenses added up to more than his
winnings, but Hansen-Dent was able to get his NCAA eligibility back and
played for USC in 1994 and '95, earning All-American honors in doubles
both years and in singles in '95.
After college, Hansen-Dent tried the challenger tour (the minor
leagues of the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour) again.
In 1995, Hansen-Dent was recruited by his former UCI coach, Greg
Patton, to play World TeamTennis for the Idaho Sneakers. Hansen-Dent
cashed in with an award-winning summer, winning the men's singles
championship to highlight his pro career.
In '96, Hansen-Dent reached the doubles finals of a Grand Prix in
Coral Springs, Fla., losing to Australia's Mark Woodforde and Todd
But, constantly hampered by injuries, he underwent knee surgery in
1997 and lasted about 1 1/2 years in his second stint on the challenger
He started teaching, working as a pro in La Jolla and living in San
Diego with his mother, Bettyann, a former top-10 player on the women's
After taking about two years off, Hansen-Dent returned to the rigors
of pro tennis a third time in 2000. "Now I'm back and starting all over
again," said Hansen-Dent, happy to be healthy and playing again.
"Teaching slows you down a little. It helps with your skills, but
you're just going through the motions. It doesn't help (your game)."
Hansen-Dent, ranked 1,298th in the world at the time, and partner
Chris Tontz of the U.S. enjoyed some success in June at an ATP Tour
challenger in Cozumel, Mexico, "a little island near Cancun," he said.
Hansen-Dent, 28, advanced to the finals at Cozumel, after winning
three matches in the 32-team draw.
In another tournament, Hansen-Dent won a round in singles, then in
July played doubles with his stepbrother, Taylor Dent, at the
Mercedes-Benz Classic in Los Angeles. In the Round of 16, they defeated
the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, in three sets, before losing in the
quarterfinals to Scott Humphries and Jan-Michael Gambill.
Hansen-Dent, a crafty, 6-foot, 170-pound right-hander, won another
singles round this year when he defeated Italy's Mose Navarra in the GHI
Bronx Tennis Classic at Crotona Park.
'This is only my fourth tournament this year, so I have a lot of
catching up to do after not playing for such a long time," said
Hansen-Dent, who has earned nearly $60,000 in prize money in his career.
Born in Newport Beach, Hansen-Dent grew up playing many sports. His
mother married Phil Dent, the former Australian Davis Cup player, when he
was about 8.
The family moved to Australia when he was 10, but then moved back to
Newport four years later, when Phil Dent found it difficult to find work
as a teaching pro in his native land. The Aussies played tennis on public
courts and would use any means necessary (i.e. old wooden rackets) to
play. There were no private clubs and few citizens willing to pay for
But, while in Sydney, Hansen-Dent learned to play cricket and rugby,
and he started playing more tennis.
When the family moved back to Newport, Hansen-Dent was thrilled. Able
to reunite with his friends, he also figured a future in tennis would be
brighter in the U.S.
"I wasn't really the best tennis player, but I was good and could
compete with the best guys," said Hansen-Dent, who played four years at
Newport Harbor, climaxed by his CIF singles title as a senior, when he
beat Ari Nathan of Brentwood, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, in the CIF finals.
(Taylor Dent would capture the family's second CIF singles title in
1996 as a Corona del Mar High freshman.)
Hansen-Dent joined Bob Ogle, the 1971 CIF singles champion, as the
only players from Harbor to win the section's biggest tennis title.
Hansen-Dent, who is single and trains out of Newport Beach Tennis Club
when he's in town, isn't picky about where he plays.
"I'll play anywhere, it doesn't matter -- wherever there are lines on
the court," said Hansen-Dent, who added that some of his worst playing
experiences came in Mexico, where some courts made the Newport Harbor
High courts look like a Grand Slam surface.
Hansen-Dent, the cousin of women's beach volleyball superstar Misty
May, is the latest honoree in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame.