(September 6, 2021) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NEW YORK – For a set, the 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby looked like a world beater, taking the first set from world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-1 and competing in a 20+ minute marathon game in the second set. Djokovic figured out the puzzle towards the end of the second set and domination ensued. Djokovic with his 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 fourth round win on Monday night over the young American, the man from Serbia stands just three wins away from all sorts of history – the Grand Slam and setting the record for winning majors at 21.
Jenson stood toe-to-toe with the 20-time major winner and with a swashbuckling style of play, he proved fearless in the first set engaging the crowd, hitting winners and frustrating Djokovic. The crowd in Arthur Ashe stadium was raucous and relished the play of both combatants.
Brooksby in the first set made just one unforced error, while Djokovic hit 11 unforced errors.
The second set Djokovic went up a break and lead 3-1, but the fifth game in the second set produced the most drama. A twenty plus minute game in which both players were like Sisyphus – back and forth, up and down. There were six break chances, nine deuces and Brooksby got the break of serve to get back on serve. After this point the wolf in Djokovic came out – staring down his opponent like his spirit animal staring down its prey. Djokovic won 14 out of the next 18 games to close down Brooksby. Djokovic broke his opponent’s serve to start each of the last three sets.
Brooksby coming into the US Open was ranked at 99. He played well above his ranking, playing in Ashe Stadium for the first time. He was the last American male standing in the draw of the US Open before play began.
The 34-year-old Djokovic was impressed by both Brooksby and the crowd which added to the loud and electric atmosphere
“Electric. Awesome. I enjoyed it. I truly did,” said Djokovic after the match. “You guys gave both of the players a lot of energy.”
“A bright future is ahead of him,” Djokovic said later to media. “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’s probably going to answer that better, but I think tonight’s match can serve him incredibly well as an example of where his game is at at the moment.
“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.”
“I think great quality match. He started off better. I’ve never played him. I didn’t see him play too many times. Maybe few matches in the last few months. Haven’t followed his career prior to that, so I didn’t know much about him. Had to do some homework and some analysis.
“It’s different stepping out on the court first time against someone that really has nothing to lose. 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.
“On my end, I was just trying to find a rhythm, trying to read his game, trying to understand where I can find holes in his game and start to attack and shift the momentum to my side.
“That happened already at the beginning of the second set. I broke him early. He broke back. But I re-broke his serve right away. We had some very, very long rallies, long games. It took a toll physically I think on both of us at that point. But I managed to find the right serves. I served efficiently when I needed to, opening up the court.
“The third and fourth set were really, really good from my side. I felt I was more dominant. I decreased the unforced errors that were really high in the first part of the match. I just was kind of swinging through the ball better.
“Was a good finish. It wasn’t a good start. But all in all, expected the battle, and I got that one. I’m pleased to overcome it.”
“I thought I started out strong today,” said Brooksby. “I believe from the start, just like any other match, I came out strong, came out with my right strategy. It’s tough how it faded after later in the second set, into the rest of the match.
“Also credit to Novak for stepping it up, too.”
Brooksby talked about the feeling of playing in the biggest arena in tennis:
“I don’t think there’s anything more exciting you can get in a sport playing in an atmosphere like that. You can see people as high up as possible. It’s full. It’s really exciting.
“I really enjoyed playing in an atmosphere like that and hope that I get to many more times in the future.
“But, yeah, it just helped me with a big crowd like that, that atmosphere. Helped me stay focused and enjoy the moment.”
“It’s definitely all positive things to take away. I learned my game. I’m feeling really confident in my game. I believe I can compete with anybody.”
Djokovic is just three wins away from winning the calendar Grand Slam. The man to achieve this was Rod Laver in 1969.
It will be a rematch of the Wimbledon final in the Serbian’s quarterfinal match as the No. 1 will face No. 6 Matteo Berrettini.
The other men’s elite eight are set: On the top half of the draw: No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany vs. Lloyd Harris of South Africa.
On the bottom half of the draw, the match-ups are: No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada vs. 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, and No. 2 Daniil Medevev of Russia vs. qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands.
The women’s quartefinals are set as well. the top half of the draw:No. 11 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland vs. 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu of Britain, and No. 4 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic will play No. 17 Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Sakkari won a 3-hour and 30-minute battle over 2019 US Open champion sixth seed Bianca Andreescu 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-3 which did not end until 2:14 am on Tuesday morning to end the second part of the night session. It was the latest-finishing women’s match in US Open history.
Towards the end of the match. Andreescu fell and injured herself and needed a medical time out but continued to play.
“At this point I really don’t know (what the injury is), but I slid a couple of times, and I fell on my groin a little bit,” Andreescu said via quotes from the WTA. “I hope it’s nothing too serious. But that affected me a little bit. I try not to think about it, but it’s hard sometimes. Everything else … I just need to take some days off and hopefully it’ll be good.”
The loss ended the Canadian’s perfect record at the US Open.”
“It was an incredible match,” Sakkari said. “I didn’t have the control of the match until middle of the second set. I felt like she was better than me, but then somehow I digged in and found a way to just turn things around.
“As I mentioned on court, I was more brave after a certain point of the match, then got my energy level a little bit higher.”
“I stayed focused on myself and did simple things. I didn’t complicate my tennis on the third set. I think that’s why I got the win at the end.”
Raducanu eliminated the last American woman in the singles draw, Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-1. Rogers had knocked out the top seeded Ash Barty in the third round.
The bottom half of the draw: No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus vs. No. 8 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine vs. 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada.