Prior to the New York Open in Uniondale this week, Canada’s Brayden Schnur had never won a match in the main draw of an ATP Tour-level tournament, but he changed all of that last week with a brilliant run to the final of the New York Open- an ATP 250 event.

For a player, who had not been able to secure a single win and who came into the qualifying rounds as the last player in the alternate list, this run in New York has been as improbable as it has been sensational.

In May 2017, the Canadian came to Nigeria for the ITF World Tour events in Abuja—the Tombim Open, the Dayak Tennis Championships and the GSL Open. He worked his way through his section of the draw in the Tombim Open, defeating home favourite, Emmanuel Idoko in the opening round, and also accounted for Mark Fynn, Benjamin Lock and Takanyi Garanganga, all Zimbabweans, en route to the final.

He would hold firm to close out the opening set in the final against Brazil’s De Paula before going on to close out the match and championship 7-6, 6-4 to lift his 4th ITF trophy.

He finished as a semifinalist in the subsequent events in Abuja and then moved on to settle in the Challenger Tour, while also playing in the qualifying rounds of ATP Tour events without success.

In 2018, he entered to play in the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open and Wimbledon, but couldn’t get past the rounds of both Grand Slam events. He again entered to play at the Australian Open this year, but fell in the first hurdle of qualifying.

And after years of toil, his breakthrough came this week.

After winning two rounds of qualifying matches—both in straight sets—he got into the main draw. His first ever win was a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jack Lin, and he built on that. Third seed, Steve Johnson was a casualty in the second round after Schnur beat him in a third-set tiebreaker, for his first victory against an opponent inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings.

Against 37-year-old Italian, Pablo Lorenzi in the quarterfinals, the 23-year-old bounced back from an opening set loss in which he blew away a 5-0 lead in the tiebreak to win 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 7-5, before recording another huge win the following day, taking down former Wimbledon semi-finalist, Sam Querrey in three sets to advance to an improbable maiden tour-level final.

Schnur began the year ranked 172nd, and arrived for the New York Open qualifying at No.154. He is up at 107 after his exploits in New York.

“Talking to my buddies, they said your breakthrough is going to come. Just going to happen when you least expect it,” the Canadian said.

He is already scheduled to play in the first round of the Delray Beach Open on Monday against Italy’s Adrian Mannarino.

“I really had to grind my way from the bottom to get to where I am today and it just shows hard work pays off.”