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Americans all Gone from U.S. Open Singles, but Brooksby Showed Flashes of Brilliance

Jenson Brooksby of the US reacts as he plays Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their match on the eighth day of the US Open Tennis. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

By Ricky Dimon

For the first time in U.S. Open history, not a single American reached the quarterfinals in either the men’s or women’s singles events.

But the 2021 tournament wasn’t entirely a lost cause for the host nation.

Shelby Rogers upset world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the third round after trailing 5-2 in the third set. Reilly Opelka reached the fourth round to continue the best stretch of tennis of his young career. Jenson Brooksby, only 20 years old, also advanced in the fourth round–doing so in unexpected and dramatic fashion. Brooksby survived marathon matches against Taylor Fritz and Aslan Karatsev before befuddling world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for almost two full sets on Monday night.

Djokovic recovered from a breadstick in the first set and endured all kinds of trouble getting through the second, but in the end the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon champion managed to break down Brooksby from a physical standpoint en route to a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Brooksby’s ouster put an end to the American contingent in New York. Rogers got blown out by Emma Raducanu and Opelka fell to Lloyd Harris in four sets earlier in the day.

But the world No. 99’s loss was hardly a failure. Count Djokovic among those in the tennis world who were wildly impressed by Brooksby’s game.

“He reminds me of Florian Mayer, (who) had this double-handed slice–very smart player,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion assessed. “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.

Jenson Brooksby of the US hits a return to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their match on the eighth day of the US Open. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

“Yeah, I think we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.”

“There’s nothing more (than that),” Brooksby said of the atmosphere. “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.”

American tennis fans surely hope for the same. For now, it’s another business end of another Grand Slam without any USA flags.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editors Note • hello tennis players • please do not follow social media. You think you are the only athletes harassed by trolls. No. All celebrities face the same trolls.  Back in the day you’d be told “don’t read the newspapers” well don’t acknowledge social media. Get a person to keep messages clear of trolls. It’s sad. Very sad. But it’s the internet. (LJ)