A love match: Brandi & Wojtek Bratek repeat in mixed doubles at ITF World Tennis Masters

Victoria Chiesa | June 05, 2023

Imagine winning a world championship. Next, imagine doing it with your spouse by your side. Imagine further still: doing it twice.


That was the reality this spring for Brandi and Wojtek Bratek of Panama City Beach, Fla., who claimed their second consecutive mixed doubles world title at the ITF World Tennis Masters, the senior tennis equivalent of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup competitions held in March and April, where top tennis players are selected to represent their countries in the 30- to 85-and-over divisions. After winning the 2022 title as No. 16-seeded underdogs, the Brateks lived up to their status as No. 1 seeds and title favorites in the 45-and-over age bracket 12 months later in Antalya, Turkey.


In a 16-team field, they didn't lose a set in their first three matches before beating Caroline de Vries and Dennis Bank from the Netherlands for the gold medal in a match tiebreak, 6-2, 0-6, [10-5].


"Personally, I believe we both wanted to prove that we weren’t a fluke team last year that just had a good draw and got lucky in the finals," Wojtek Bratek said. "It meant a lot to prove to ourselves that we could do it again, compared to the first title that was probably a bit of a surprise to us and maybe the other teams that have never seen us play before."

Tennis has been front and center for the Brateks since before they even knew each other, as they started playing at opposite ends of the world. Wojtek Bratek grew up in Germany as Boris Becker and Steffi Graf owned superstar status, and came to the U.S. at age 19. Brandi Bratek, a native of Brunswick, Ga., was the daughter of a college basketball coach father who "loved tennis" and had her hitting balls as early as age 3. Both former college players, the pair met and became a couple when he competed at the NAIA Webber International University and she at Division II Florida Southern College. They split up for four years when he relocated to Hawaii to finish his playing career at Division II Hawaii Pacific University, and she, to San Diego, where she earned a master's degree in sport psychology. Eventually, they reconnected when she was living in Arkansas as a volunteer assistant coach for the University of Arkansas and he was living in New York City. 


The rest is history.

Photo courtesy of Brandi Bratek.

Currently, Wojtek Bratek is the director of tennis for Bluegreen’s Bayside Resort and Spa, while Brandi Bratek is a cognitive performance specialist with the U.S. Air Force and Army. The couple has moved five times in the last 10 years as a result of Brandi Bratek's career, and tennis has helped them lay down roots wherever they may be. 


"Tennis has provided an easy way for us to quickly connect with people around the world in new communities with those who have a similar interest," she said. "Tennis players are typically very social and are accustomed to meeting and getting to know new people. Communities around the world are always excited for new players to join their circle of players to learn from, play with and form new friendships.


"It is definitely special to share a common love for each other, for the same sport and to both be competitive at a similar level. It is also special that, at 45, we both still love to compete and both prioritize traveling to play tournaments. Luckily, we both understand the effort it takes to be competitive on the national and international stage so we are very understanding when one of us spends an afternoon playing tennis with someone rather than with each other."


Those connections were obvious for the couple in Turkey, where Brandi Bratek used her expertise to advise her teammates at crunch time. In Antalya, U.S. teams competed in team and individual events in the 30-, 35-, 40-, 45 and 50 and-over age groups, and in addition to the Brateks' title, Americans claimed the silver medal in both the men’s 30-and-over and women’s 40-and-over divisions, as well as a bronze in the women’s 30-and-over bracket. 

Photo courtesy of Brandi Bratek.

"All teams would be at breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day," Brandi Bratek said. "If one team had a closer match and others had finished up, a group text would go out and the next thing you knew, you had 20-plus people from the U.S. teams cheering for you. This year was really special because of everyone being in such close proximity every day."


In their team events, Wojtek Bratek helped the 45-men finish seventh in the Dubler Cup, while Brandi Bratek helped the 45-women place fifth in the Margaret Court Cup. 


"Being picked to represent the U.S. at a World Championship is a huge honor first of all," Wojtek Bratek added. "The camaraderie we had specifically on our men’s 45-team was amazing. In the end, we did not get the result we wanted, but we were able to discuss what could be improved upon for the coming years so we can finally achieve our big goal of a getting a team medal. Being on a team with three other guys that are extremely dedicated to practicing and living a healthy lifestyle while working full-time jobs helps make you a better player and person."

A recent study found that tennis players live, on average, 9.7 years longer than those who live a sedentary lifestyle, and that the sport offers numerous other health benefits, both in the physical, and the social and emotional. The Brateks are living proof of this study, and the epitome of how tennis is a lifetime sport.


"After playing in college, I was definitely burnt out and by the age of 30 I was probably in the worst shape of my life," Wojtek Bratek said. "I can honestly say for myself that getting back to competing at a high level changed my life completely. Getting back to competing changed our lifestyle, making us way more focused on eating healthy, staying active, and getting the right amount of sleep. 


"The social aspect of competing is also a huge part of why we do it. We are not only able to connect with a lot of like-minded friends in our community, but we were also able to make friends with players all over the world through competing at different tournaments. It definitely fuels a fire every time you compete at a bigger tournament and see how fit one has to be to get through one or two weeks of competition."


"Last year, I met and befriended a lovely woman from India who is approximately a 3.5 [NTRP level] player," Brandi Bratek added. "She only started playing tennis five years ago, but loves the sport and thoroughly enjoys combining her love of travel with playing tennis and meeting new people. She is a role model in India for moms to get out of the house and be active, and has even been featured on the news there.


"You don’t have to be a world-class player to sign up and get the experience. Once you get knocked out of the tournament, you can travel or stick around and watch some phenomenal athletes up close and personal without having to purchase a ticket for it. You truly are never too old to start playing, and there are always opportunities to compete."


For more information about USTA adult tournaments, and senior international competition, click here

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