Building Upon A Breakout Year, Brooksby Makes Winning Return In Dallas

Jenson Brooksby (photo: Dallas Open/Alex Smith)

DALLAS/WASHINGTON, February 11, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

After missing last month’s Australian swing due to testing positive for COVID-19, ATP Newcomer of the Year Jenson Brooksby finally made his 2022 tour-level debut at the Dallas Open Thursday afternoon – and it was a winning one.

The World No. 54 from Carmichael, Calif., seeded for first time in an ATP tour-level event, defeated 37-year-old Tour veteran Andreas Seppi of Italy, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, to advance to the quarterfinal round of the ATP 250 indoor hard-court tournament at the Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, Texas. Next, Brooksby will face Australia’s 83rd-ranked Jordan Thompson.

What a difference a year has made for the 21-year-old Brooksby. At this same time in 2021, he was ranked 315th and playing in ITF World Tennis Tour and ATP Challenger Tour outposts such as Villena, Spain and Potchefstroom, South Africa before embarking on what turned into a breakout season for him. Brooksby would go on to win three Challenger titles, make two tour-level semifinals and reach his first ATP Tour final in Newport, R.I. He started the new season strong with a semifinal run at the Columbus (Ohio) Challenger last month.

At a set apiece, Brooksby broke to go ahead 3-1 in the decider and consolidated the break. However, ahead 4-2, he faced a break point in the seventh game that Seppi wasn’t able to convert. Brooksby capitalized on the opportunity and held serve for a 5-2 lead as he looked to close out the victory following the changeover as the match neared the two-hour mark.

In the next game, Brooksby gained a match point at 30-40 on Seppi’s serve after winning an 11-shot rally, but the Italian saved it with a swing-volley forehand winner. He won the next two points to hold and remain alive, then it was Brooksby’s turn to serve for the match.

As the points got longer, Brooksby grew more daring. He won one point with a backhand drop shot, then hit a down-the-line backhand winner. He gained match point when Seppi netted a return that halted an 18-shot rally. Finally, Brooksby won on his second match-point opportunity that ended what turned out to be a hard-fought but entertaining two-hour and five-minute match.

Afterward, Brooksby admitted to feeling some nerves. “It felt pretty good. A little nervous in my first [tour-level] match of the year,” he said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “I competed well. As an American in the U.S., it was a great crowd. I missed that atmosphere for a few months.”

During his on-court interview Brooksby said: “It’s always good to get through the first match of a tournament, no doubt. I’m excited to get through it.” Asked what the adjustment has been like being a seeded player for the first time, he explained: “You work on dealing with a little more pressure. I treat it like I’m the underdog in my mind, but also confident. I have the same mentality to prove myself week in and week out.”

No. 1 seed Fritz through to quarterfinals

World No. 19 Taylor Fritz continues to play arguably the best tennis of his career as his career-best ranking suggests. After reaching the second week at the Australian Open last month, the 24-year-old from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Jack Sock in 67 minutes late Wednesday evening. Next, Fritz will play No. 7 seed Marcos Giron of the United States.

“I’ve been working really hard the last couple of years and kind of slowly improving little things and what has started clicking is my forehand,” Fritz said during an on-court interview after his second-round win against Sock. “I’m hitting my forehand so much better. It’s such a bigger weapon than it used to be. That’s brought everything I’m working on together. I’ve jumped levels. It’s been great.”

Around the Dallas Open

• No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, who won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Dallas back in 2019, defeated Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8) by playing the biggest points best. He won on his second match point chance with his 28th ace after saving set points in the second-set tie break at 5-6 and 6-7 during the one-hour and 49-minute second-round contest. Opelka is into his second quarterfinal round of the season in four tournaments. He will play No. 5 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, who defeated No. 108 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-3, 6-1 in 66 minutes Friday night.

Opelka won 83 percent (58 of 78) of his first-serve points and faced no break points from the 231st-ranked Stebe, who began the season on the Challenger Tour with a semifinal run in Forli, Italy and followed it with a quarterfinal finish in Cleveland, Ohio. Opelka outpointed Stebe 78-74.

• Austrian qualifier Jurij Rodionov came into his second-round match against 150th-ranked qualifier Vasek Pospisil of Canada owning a 5-0 career mark against Canadians, which included a win over then-No. 12 Denis Shapovalov at Vienna in 2020. However, in his first career meeting against Pospisil, the 153rd-ranked Rodionov squandered a match point in the second set and it gave Pospisil new life.

The Canadian finally found his rhythm and took charge in the final set to win in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), 6-2, in two hours and 45 minutes. The victory advanced Pospisil to Friday’s quarterfinal round against No. 3 seed John Isner of the United States in his first tour-level event of the year after starting the season playing on the Challenger Tour circuit and winning an indoor hard-court tournament in Quimper, France last month.

Pospisil finished with 18 aces and won 80 percent (55 of 69) of his first-serve points. He converted three of five break points and outpointed Rodionov 111-108.

With the margins thin, Pospisil was asked during an on-court interview how he turned around the match, in which he saved a match point in the second set at 5-6 (30-40) and managed to pull out the service game and win the set in a tie-break. He said: “Honestly, it was a very tough match; Jurij was playing really well. I was really struggling to find my rhythm. I was getting a little frustrated. … Then, I just kind of calmed down a little bit and I hung in there. Obviously, down match point makes for a very small margin. I’m just glad I stayed in there and played a good level.”

The lesson learned by Pospisil was one of finding solutions – enjoying the battle – and appreciating the big crowd, which helped pull him through some tough spots. “I took it in and really enjoyed the moment, actually to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose. It was fun turning things around.”

Thursday’s Dallas Open results

Friday’s Dallas Open order of play

“Quotable …”

“It was a good atmosphere for sure and very happy to win that match, especially when I truthfully kind of choked in the second set. Just great to win and I knew it was going to be a coin flip match I told my friends, ‘This is a coin flip, this is what it is.’ I haven’t played much; he had a match under his belt. It just was going to be tough the whole way, so hopefully I can build on this.”

– No. 3 seed John Isner commenting on his three-set, second-round victory over Kevin Anderson Wednesday night, in which each set was determined by a tiebreaker.

“I’ve never been in this position before [as the top seed] and I have a lot of expectations of myself. Obviously, I expect to win the tournament. It’s kind of cool being here knowing that I am the top seed.”

– No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz following his straight-set win over Jack Sock Wednesday night, which improved his 2022 win-loss record to 6-2.