Tennis Prose



US Open 2021: Jenson Brooksby Is A Dragon Slayer

It’s seldom that you see a performance that leaves your jaw dropped and your senses in awe because you just watched an extraordinary tennis force show all the qualities to win a Grand Slam title in the future.

Jenson Brooksby made that heavyweight impact on me last night in his stunning, sensational four set win vs Taylor Fritz in the US Open second round 67 (9-7) 76 (12-10) 75 62.

I know how good Taylor Fritz is. Fritz has said he aims to be world no. 1 and in the first round here he beat a nemesis he had never won a set from before, Alex de Minaur. Fritz has three wins vs the top ranked American Reilly Opelka, he also forced Djokovic to five sets in Australia this year. So Fritz is playing high level tennis right now and he’s very confident, hungry and dangerous. And Fritz appeared to be in control of young Brooksby, edging the first set and then worked himself into position to win the second set. All the while Fritz wore that Apollo Creed expression that he was going to teach young whippersnapper Brooksby a valuable lesson about professional tennis and knowing your place on the ATP totem pole.

But that’s when Brooksby showed he’s not your typical American, and he has some Rocky Balboa and Mike Tyson in his blood and bones. He’s got something very, very special deep inside that few players have, that few experts can articulate about. Fritz is in top form and he threw everything, I mean everything at Brooksby, but it all came back. Brooksby fought, clawed, scratched, punched, grunted, yelled, roared, made a magic forehand shot around the netpost that never lifted higher than a can of tennis balls but it struck for a winner in the 4-4 game in the third. Best shot of the tournament. Fritz hid his true reaction, Brooksby did a little showboat trot and wave an index finger as if to say no. 1. It was a knockout punch shot that ordinary ATP players could never produce.

Brooksby, age 20 from Sacramento, CA, can do it all. He plays superb defense, mixes up his shots, can strike winners at any moment, he has a very good serve, drop shot, foot speed, he has a complete arsenal. He’s deadly on running shots too. But it takes a lot more than a complete arsenal to win majors. He also complicates the opponent with other tricks, like suddenly grunting and yelling to add mustard to his shots or perhaps to distract them. ESPN analysts John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and Cliff Drysdale all objected to Brooksby’s sound effects but it’s not productive for an artist to care what the critic may think.

Brooksby is a bright and ambitious kid and he learned that the best champions have tricks and many of them grunt and roar and scream – Serena, Maria, Rafa, Djokovic, Hewitt, Azarenka, Seles, Zverev, etc. Brooksby has arrived not to be Robby Ginepri or Mardy Fish, he is here to win majors and save American tennis. Brooksby’s career ambition is not to play basic normal politically correct tennis that only results in small titles and a top 25 ranking. These ESPN TV analysts should be thrilled to see a player like Brooksby who has the potential to silence the American media criticizing about how mediocre and lousy American mens’ tennis has been since Andy Roddick’s US Open title in 2003.

Brooksby is doing what he needs to do to play his best and slay dragons. Within the rules. The irony is, the McEnroes Brad Gilbert and Drysdale all essentially lambasted Brooksby for his sound effects but his opponent Fritz never once complained.

I still can’t believe how mentally and physically tough Brooksby was last night, hanging in there with Fritz and all the while maintaining this aura and demeanor that he fully expected to win. Brooksby was totally convinced he would win and he backed it up all night long through all the adversity and trouble Fritz presented to him. Brooksby stole the second set tiebreak 12-10 and then won a very close third set 75 punctuated by an ace, his third of the match. ESPN’s commentators said he took two long bathroom breaks as if he broke a rule but so what? Many other top players are doing it and it’s allowed now. What is the difference between a bathroom break and a John McEnroe five minute rant at a chair umpire? They both are stall tactics that are legal. And they both work to help the commanding player sustain or regain command of a match.

The confidence of Fritz wavered in the fourth set and he found himself down 4-0 and 5-1. But Fritz is a fierce fighter too, and he saved triple match point to hold and then saved three more match points in Brooksby’s following service game, only to be thwarted on the next two points for 6-2. Fritz was enraged and shocked at his failure and snapped his Head racquet over his knees.

Brooksby didn’t over-celebrate. He expected to win this match, even if it pushed him to perform above and beyond his own limits. Brooksby became a greater player last night and in my opinion, Brooksby can become much greater. He is one of the ultimate fighters of the ATP right now, with a special rare intensity you will only find in the likes of Nadal, Hewitt, Djokovic, Serena. Brooksby will do whatever it takes. And if he needs more he will manufacture what is needed. He is as vicious a competitor as you will ever see. And remember what Pancho Gonzales and Jimmy Connors said: “The the great champions are vicious competitors.”

Next up for the 99th ranked Brooksby is Aslan Karatsev and if he can win that match, he will have a date with the history maker Novak Djokovic. And to be quite honest, Djokovic better take this kid very seriously and do his homework. Remember, Fritz extended Djokovic to five sets in Melbourne, while Brooksby only needed four last night.

My final point is this: What Brooksby did last night was one of the most impressive, stunning displays by a young American in the last twenty years. He is a dragon slayer. And with two years of more experience and learning and refining his game, the biggest titles in the world will be within the reach of Jenson Brooksby.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Brooksby is the best young American prospect now in my opinion he surpassed Nakashima and Korda and also Opelka last night. But Opelka is doing very well now too, and Opelka is competing better, more positive than negative body language.

  • Douglas Day · September 4, 2021 at 8:04 am

    And he never beats himself. The last thing you expect from a rookie. Try to figure out his backhand. When points go on you can almost feel his opponents cracking slowly open..Shades of Fabrice Santoro? Welcome to our nightmare!

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 4, 2021 at 9:26 am

    Doug, What Alcaraz and Brooksby and Leylah did this week make Fed and Nadal and Serena looks boring in comparison. Love the new energy, intensity, fire and daring to be great. That element has been missing for years.



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