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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday July 16, 2021

After taking the whole of 2020 off from competition due to an injury to his toe and a few “other things,” namely the pandemic, American Jenson Brooksby has caught fire in 2021 and become one of the biggest stories on the challenger circuit.

This week Brooksby, who has won 31 of 36 professional matches in 2021, is taking his talents to the ATP Tour.

Tennis Express

In his first career grass-court event Brooskby has reached his first ATP semifinal. On Friday in Newport he eased past veteran Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, 6-0, 6-3.

Has the Norther California native’s recent and rapid success come as a surprise?

"Not really, I'm never surprised,” the 20-year-old told reporters after his victory on Friday. “I think everything happens for a reason. I'm happy with how it's gone so far this week, but I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I expect good things from myself and I'm just looking forward to the next one."

Brooksby is playing his fourth event at that ATP level, after competing at the US Open in 2018 (round one loss to John Millman), 2019 (first-round win over Tomas Berdych, second-round loss to Nikoloz Basilashvili) and Roland-Garros this year (first-round loss to Aslan Karatsev).

After the aforementioned year off, spent mostly at home, first rehabbing then prepping for his first full pro season, Brooksby suddenly finds himself way ahead of schedule. He enrolled at Baylor in 2019 to play a season of NCAA tennis, but his plan was never to stay more than a year.

"Going pro really didn't have anything to do with injuries that year," he said of his decision to turn pro. "I had planned all along I think to go one season and then turn pro, but yes, with Covid too, none of those things had an effect on my decision. I knew for a while that would be my choice."

Brooksby, who is coached by Joe Gilbert, says he spent time working on his game as soon as he was healthy, and also worked on his fitness in the gym.

"It wasn't easy, so January I went to Baylor then mid-March with Covid hitting I went back home. I finished school in the spring but I was able to start hitting again, I think about April, a little bit, but it took a few more months to really get back to full training, and then I had a couple other things go on, but I was just at home for the whole year, doing what I could in the gym and on the court to get better and start out with matches this year."

The Goal is to play more at the ATP Level

Brooksby’s goal for the season is not necessarily specific. He has no ranking in mind - he just wants to play ATP-level events.

"I don't really have a specific ranking goal or anything like that because I feel like that's more distracting to our culture, but obviously I want to play more ATP events and be at this level consistently, hopefully with the hard court ones coming up, the US Open and ones before that, I want to have those opportunities and keep my game getting better at this level - that's about it really."

Brooksby, Before and After

Brooksby has cut his ranking from 315 to 152 (he’s projected at 134 with his semifinal at Newport and could get as high as 110 if he wins the title), and reached four challenger finals in 2021, winning three. We asked him what the differences in his game are from 2019, when he played the US Open, to now.

"I definitely believe my level has improved since then,” he said, “but I think the bigger thing is that I've played with more discipline and I've focused, I've hit the right shots better in practice more often, which has made it easier for me to transition, both mentally, like confidence-wise and in the matches and also my physicality has gotten a lot better, especially since two years ago, I was a late grower, so I feel like those two factors are big which is why I'm even a lot better now than two years ago. And also my game has gotten better, we've worked on it a lot and fine-tuned some things. I have good talks with my coach and I just see it getting better."

Brooksby has only played five matches against the Top-100, but he’ll get another big test tomorrow when he faces Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the semi-finals. It’s a challenge he is very much looking forward to.

"The more I have, the more I'll feel comfortable out there,” he says of facing top-ranked players. “Especially like 2018, my first US Open, that was a good learning experience definitely when I played Millman. I just hope to keep going."

Semis set at Newport

The last four is set at the Hall of Fame Open, with Alexander Bublik and Kevin Anderson set to square off in the top-half semifinal.

Bublik, the 2019 runner-up at Newport, is 26-17 in 2021 with two finals to his name. He’s also reached his first two Masters 1000 quarter-finals and won three of his last four matches against the Top-10. He plays at a career-high ranking of 37.

Former World No.5 Anderson is playing his first semifinal of the season. Ranked 113, he’s 8-6 on the season.


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