Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses the potential of a young American.
Remember that ugly t-shirt idea we had brainstormed during the US Open?
It said the following: “I pushed Novak Djokovic as much as anyone in years and all I got to show for it was this awesome 5th game in the 2nd set.”
Remember it? Well that was a novel t-shirt idea we had for American Jenson Brooksby after the way he had pushed, then lost, in the US Open fourth round against Novak Djokovic. It was, I guess, a bit of an olive branch, a sort of “chin up, kiddo” in online form from a columnist Brooksby knows absolutely nothing about, to keep him going in the face of adversity.
We’re here to tell you that the Summer-slash-Fall of Brooksby continues. The 20-year-old is now ranked as high as No. 70 in the world and has just notched a semifinal berth at the Antwerp Open. (Where he resoundingly lost 6-4 and 6-0 against Diego Schwartzman, but that’s neither here nor there.)
What makes Brooksby great?
We don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s been quite the few weeks and months for Brooksby. After finishing last season outside of the top 300 on the men’s side, he’s now won 12 of his 18 matches on the ATP in 2021.
The recipe to his success can be found in that infamous fifth game of the second set in his match against Djokovic. It’s a game, lest we forget, that lasted all of 24 points and ended with Brooksby breaking the Serb’s serve. (From there of course, it mostly went to shit for the youngster, but stay with us please.)
During that fifth game, we saw a talented and unorthodox player go toe-to-toe with the best player in men’s tennis at the peak of his powers. We saw Brooksby push Djokovic around in the kind of service game full of twists, reveals and fake twists. Brooksby took the Serb’s best shots over and over and over again, then lived to tell the tale. Not only that, but Brooksby literally beat him at his own game. (Then lost resoundingly, yes. Djokovic is ridiculous.) During that US Open match, Brooksby showed his mettle—if nothing else—and that bodes well for his future.
The low-down on Brooksby
Brooksby plays an odd style of tennis. It’s a style predicated on variety. He just about never hits the same shot twice in a row, and his funky game is full of slices, two-hand slices, and lobs where you would expect other, more traditional things. Brooksby doesn’t overpower his opponents but rather uses the power they generate against them behind great court coverage and defense. He gains an edge in points with gutsy play and a style that can’t really be replicated. It works for him, but it might not work this well for everyone else.
His main weakness of his serve, at this point in his young career, is a serve that doesn’t quite put the fear of God into his competitors. But he’ll be fine. He’s still just 20 years old. Anyway, his success isn’t built around a weapon like an overwhelming serve.
So far in 2021 Brooksby has been fortunate enough to take everyone by surprise. He’s made a lasting impact. We can’t wait to see what he does when he doesn’t have the advantage of surprise against other opponents next season and in the following years.
For now, the American has already earned a spot at this year’s ATP Next Gen Finals event. It’s well deserved. He’ll be alongside players like Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger Aliassime, Carlos Alcaraz and Sebastian Korda.
He’ll stand out.
Welcome to Milan, Jenson Brooksby ?
— Next Gen ATP Finals (@nextgenfinals) October 23, 2021
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG