In 12 short months, Jenson Brooksby has come whistling out of the weeds to become an irresistible force on the ATP Tour. But he has produced no bigger result that he did Monday night when he claimed his first Top-5 victory, winning a bruising 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 baseline battle with Stefanos Tsitsipas to charge into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Last March, he was ranked outside the Top 250 playing a Challenger in Cleveland and today the 21-year-old American is at a career-high No. 43 with a firm shot at kicking in the door to the Top 40 next Monday.
“You never know at that stage [a year ago] what’s going to happen,” Brooksby said in his on-court interview. “You can’t predict the future, but all you can do is what’s in your control. I knew in my head I thought I had the game to be here, and there’s nothing as good as replicating it out here.”
The victory over the No.5-seeded Tsitsipas was a classic piece of stealth work by the excitable Brooksby. Tsitsipas was typically crisp and clean, winning the first set with the original set of tennis balls, but Brooksby came back to win 12 of the last 17 games. The score was 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 but it felt more lopsided than that.
Brooksby, one of seven Americans in the third round, joins fellow American Reilly Opelka, a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 winner over Denis Shapovalov, in the fourth round. The other five – Taylor Fritz, John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Steve Johnson all have an opportunity to join them Tuesday. Seven U.S. men in the third round is the best total since 1994, when the draw was 56.
“I felt really good going into the match,” Brooksby said. “I was hitting well, I thought I prepared well. I just got a little tight, I think. A little bit in my own head. It’s only a percentage of the time. It’s the whole match.
“I mentally got myself to turn around. I breathed a little bit, I calmed down, and I said let’s switch things around.”
Brooksby moved on from that nervous first set, breaking Tsitsipas’ serve for the first time in the second game. A number of net-charging volleys brought the significant crowd out of their seats and it was on to the third set, where Brooksby was nearly flawless, finishing off their first meeting.
Brooksby won 85 points, five more than Tsitsipas, and had 21 winners, against 30 unforced errors. Tsitsipas finished with 19 and 33, respectively.
Tsitsipas already has gone deep into draws this year, reaching the final at Rotterdam and the semi-finals at the Australian Open and Acapulco, but thus far a title has eluded him. This loss will disappoint him deeply, for with the surprising departure of top seed Daniil Medvedev at the hands of Gael Monfils, the top half of the draw looks a lot more open than it did 24 hours ago.
Brooksby meets the winner of Tuesday’s late match between defending champion Cameron Norrie and Nikoloz Basilashvili. Five months ago, Norrie became the first British player to win here in the event’s 45-year history.
“I mean, it’s my favorite tournament,” said the Sacramento-born Brooksby. “This was the tournament I watched as a kid. It means a lot that I’m making good strides from last year and continuing to improve. I’m excited to keep it going, see what I can do.”