Tennis Prose



Facing Brooksby

By Scoop Malinowski

One of the most unique playing styles in the ATP right now is American 22 year old Jenson Brooksby. The Sacramento, California native is currently ranked 39 in the world and yesterday he shocked the tennis world again with another extraordinary performance in beating ATP world no. 3 Casper Ruud in four sets in the second round of Australian Open.

Brooksby has not won an ATP title yet but he’s made a very strong impression in pro tennis over the last two years with a series of sensational performances against the best players in the world. In this feature, Ruud, Daniil Medvedev, Novak Djokovic, Jimmy Arias, Justin Gimelstob and Andy Murray share their thoughts and insights on this rising force in the tennis universe..

Casper Ruud: There were many sort of interesting rallies where we were rallying back and forth, playing a little – not cat and mouse, but he had attacked, maybe I came back and was controlling the point, and then somehow he guessed right or came back in the rally again.

It’s frustrating when you feel like you have the momentum in a rally, and then a player pulls out a shot like he did in the last game for example, where he does that slice down the line on the line, which is the only shot he can play and he’s able to do it. 

It’s frustrating and annoying at the same time, but at the same time I gave him credit, because he stayed in there and fought well.

Physically it was a tough match…he fought through well and didn’t seem to be affected by the duration.

It’s fun to watch him…if he’s on and I have a chance to watch, I think it’s interesting, because he makes tennis looks a little different from any other player.

He plays really well. He plays flat, he defends great from both sides.

It’s a tough matchup for me, because I never really get any higher balls or balls where I feel like I can generate my heavy topspin shots that I like to play.

The few times that I was able to, he counterattacked great from both sides, keeping the ball low and deep.

Andy Murray: Jenson Brooksby is the sort of player I love to watch…lots of variety… high tennis IQ….great in defense. His slice and backhand volley are almost identical to Florián Mayer.

Novak Djokovic: He’s a young, talented player that is very crafty. He’s got the really all-around game. He was pumped. He had the crowd behind him, of course. He played a perfect first set. Everything he intended to do he executed it perfectly.

He absorbs the pace very well, especially from the backhand side. He reminds me of Florian Mayer had this double-handed slice, very smart player. Maybe not the greatest mover, but Mayer just managed to play on the big stage pretty well against the players who try to penetrate the ball and kind of dictate the play, stay close to the line. He loved playing with the guys like that.

Brooksby reminds me of him a lot. But I think he’s a better mover than Mayer. He’s young. He’s 20. He’s got plenty of time. He showed also I think mental maturity on the court. Stepped in, and considering the circumstances, his first Arthur Ashe Stadium match, against me, night session, I think he managed himself very well. He was motivated and did his best. I have to congratulate him and say that I was impressed with his game but also with his behavior.

Yeah, I think we’re going to see a lot of him in the future. I mean, he has the means. Now, obviously a lot of things have to come together, but he has a bit of an unorthodox game, does a lot with the feel. But he’s smart. He knows how to win points.

A bright future is ahead of him. He just needs to keep going, keep working and keep believing because he’s definitely got the game and he’s got the means.

He can play equally well with the top players in the world. It’s a long way to get ranking-wise up there, but he’s definitely on a good trail. He’s going in the right direction.

Daniil Medvedev:  I think he’s playing great tennis. He has the potential to be top player. Again, when I say “top,” you never know — No. 1, No. 10, 7, 5 in the world — but he has the potential to be higher than he is right now.

Yeah, it’s not easy. You need to win matches, need to win big tournaments, gain experience. But his strength is definitely, and that’s the most important in tennis, put the ball in the right spot. In the beginning, that’s what he was doing great. He was hitting corners, aggressive, some winners, not much I could do.

I knew that I just have to continue and there is a possibility that maybe he’s not gonna play that amazing for all the match. And that’s what happened. Yeah, that’s the toughest part in tennis, you know.

If you want to win Grand Slams or stuff like this against the best players in the world, you need to continue playing amazing sometimes for all the match, so today I managed to keep my consistency just enough to beat him.

I think there are some similarities (of Brooksby and me), like he likes to hit the ball flat. I feel like he has this ability, being big, I mean, really good runner, we all know, but also being in the tough positions, so many times you feel like, okay, maybe I have to go to the net or my next shot is going to be easy because I put him in trouble. Then from these strange positions, he gives you a tough ball to play. That’s, I think, yeah, that’s really high level of tennis, because, yeah, that’s when you are the most in trouble.

I think his game is still different from mine, especially like the two-hand slice, dropshots. He actually didn’t do one two-handed dropshot against me today. I was surprised, because when we practiced he did quite a few (smiling).

But, yeah, I would compare him more to Florian Mayer, because yeah, I actually played once against Florian, and he destroyed me 2 and 1 in the final, in my first, or second final of challenger. No, it was my first final of challenger.

Yeah, I think their game is really similar. What else can I say? No, a great player with a lot of potential, yeah, but then you never know if he’s going to reach it.

Justin Gimelstob: Love his game and everything about the way he competes. He plays chess when most just play checkers.

Jimmy Arias: Jenson Brooksby (is my favorite player to watch today). Yeah, I think I like Jenson Brooksby the most, in a sense. I like him because he has that feeling… he just wins. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. But he wins.

Brooksby plays with a Dunlop racquet and wears classic attire by Uomo Sport and Wilson shoes.

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  • SHLOMO · January 19, 2023 at 11:08 am

    Yes, I saw the game the all game and this guy is very unique player. Very high IQ tennis game, simply fun to watch him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 19, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Agree Shlomo, he’s like Luke Skywalker with his light saber and some kind of mysterious force behind him helping him to be able to slay dragons and hold his own with any ATP player. Nobody ever masters the sport of tennis and none of us will ever figure out how the heck Brooksby keeps winning these matches vs the best players on the planet.

  • Winston Smith · January 19, 2023 at 11:06 pm

    The most interesting player in tennis currently…
    The AO broadcast commentators kept criticizing his serve from a technical point of view, yet his serving stats were excellent.
    One commentator compared Brooksby to Alexander Volkov, I thought this was apt, what do you think?
    Basically he dominated the current world #2, sure hope he can keep it up!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2023 at 8:13 am

    Winston, that’s a good point Brooksby does remind of the semi awkward unorthodox athleticism of Volkov who I believe was a lefty. But I think Brooksby is better than Volkov, better athlete, better competitor and more burning desire. I don’t remember Volkov doing major damage at a Grand Slam. The other most interesting player in tennis right now is Nishioka, he just gave McDonald a lesson 76 64 63.

  • Winston Smith · January 20, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    Re: Volkov, a righty,among the last of the Soviet era players
    Early 90’s he was tough, US Open quarters 92, semis 93, lost to Sampras.
    91 Wimbledon champ Stich beat him in 4th round 7-5 in 5th
    Watching him you’d think: How does he win with this horrible game?
    He was unorthodox but a tremendous athlete, big strong and quick, product of Soviet sports machine. He could have been world class in numerous sports, tennis was chosen.



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