What A Year It’s Been For Believer Brooksby

Jenson Brooksby (photo: Hall of Fame Open/Facebook)

NEWPORT, R.I./WASHINGTON, July 15, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Jenson Brooksby is a believer in his shot-making skills and in the thoughtfulness of his level of play. His performance this week at the ATP 250 Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island, have borne this out and rewarded him with a quarterfinal berth in his first grass-court tournament as a professional.

The 20-year-old Sacramento, Calif. native is playing in his first ATP Tour main draw although he’s played in three Grand Slam events (where he is 1-3), including a 2019 first-round win over Tomas Berdych. With the road to next month’s US Open ready to begin, expect to be hearing a lot about this personable American. He’s got game.

After earning success as a junior player, Brooksby has further developed his game on the ATP Challenger Tour, going 21-2 with three titles this season (Potchefstroom, South Africa; Orlando, Fla.; Tallahassee, Fla.) as well as reaching the finals in a fourth (Cleveland, Ohio). He’s jumped from No. 307 at the end of 2020 to a career-high No. 147 on June 28 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. In what has turned into a breakout season for the 6-foot-4-inch right-hander, Brooksby has cracked both the Top 200 and Top 150 in quick order. He began the week in Newport ranked 152nd.

The poised and talented Brooksby started off on Monday with a solid 7-5, 6-3 victory over 31-year-old Russian veteran Evgeny Donskoy, ranked 142nd. Then, he followed it with a 5-3, 4-6, 7-5 comeback win over 104th-ranked fellow American Denis Kudla on Wednesday afternoon. Brooksby broke to go ahead 6-5 in the final set, then saved three break points during his final service game and won on his second match-point opportunity. He outpointed Kudla 100-86 during the two hour and 24-minute match.

The victory advanced Brooksby into his first ATP Tour-level quarterfinal on Friday against Peter Gojowczyk. The 131st-ranked German eliminated fourth seed Vasek Pospisil of Canada, 6-3, 6-3.

After his win over Donskoy, Brooksby said he tries to treat every match the same. “But I want to prove that I can do the same things at all the ATP Tour events as I’ve done at the Challengers so far. I’m very motivated to prove myself and for everybody to see how well I can do here. I’m pushing for that,” he said.

During his press conference that followed his victory over Kudla on Wednesday, Brooksby admitted to overcoming some nerves in closing out the match. He said it was important to him that he was able to save the three break points that helped set up the win. “The third set was a back-and-forth affair, holding serve and trying to focus on my strategy, which was tricky. At 5-all, I was able to get a good break of serve and fought through some nerves to hold at the end,” he said.

When Brooksby was asked what he’s learned about himself from his two victories at Newport this week, which have lifted him into the last eight, he said: “I feel I am getting more comfortable on the grass day by day, from the first day. Now that I have a couple of matches in, I’m feeling more confident on the surface and I know I have this level to get these results.

“I’m definitely happy to prove it right away from the start at this [ATP 250] level and hope to keep it going.”

At his Wednesday press conference, Brooksby emphasized that he’s enjoying being on court, playing after sitting out all of 2020 because of the pandemic. “I definitely enjoy competing week in, week out. I love what I do,” he said.

“I’m happy I’ve had a pretty good start to the year, pretty consistent. I hope to keep it going for the long run for many more years. I hope to keep getting better.”

Hall of Fame Open news & noteworthy

• No. 37 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, the tournament’s top seed, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1 victory over 210th-ranked wild card Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. Bublik won the battle of the big hitters by finishing with 22 aces to Karlovic’s 21.

“Ivo is a great player and there is not much to say about this match other than it was server versus server,” said Bublik, who is seeded first in an ATP Tour-level event for the first time. “In the first set, I got a bit lucky and he gave me two double faults. In the second set I gave him [four] and he gave up five in the third. I’m happy to get through and I’m happy to be in the quarterfinals.”

Next, Bublik will face No. 163 Jason Jung of Taiwan, who took out No. 5 seed Tennys Sandgren of the United States, 6-2, 6-2.

• Also reaching the quarterfinals were: 231st-ranked American wild card Jack Sock, who defeated No. 3 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-2, 6-3; No. 7 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia defeated No. 111 Yuichi Sugita of Japan, 6-0, 6-2; No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson beat 167th-ranked Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner, 7-5, 7-6 (3); and No. 155 Maxime Cressy advanced over No. 2 seed Sam Querrey, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, in an all-American battle.