US Open: Brooksby feels he can compete with anybody after threatening Djokovic upset

By Sports Desk September 07, 2021

Jenson Brooksby has confidence he can compete with anybody after threatening a fourth-round upset against Novak Djokovic at the US Open.

The unheralded American posed a real problem for Djokovic at Arthur Ashe Stadium and took out the opening set 6-1 in New York City.

It was not to be, though, as Djokovic – chasing a calendar Grand Slam – roared back to win 1-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.

Despite falling short, Brooksby is only looking at the positives from going toe-to-toe with the world number one in such a huge match.

"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," Brooksby said after his first run to the second week of a grand slam.

"I knew it would be important to start strong, to impose my mindset and my strategy, my game out there. It's definitely special. I mean, I always enjoy the matches and everything throughout the moment. Obviously you have to stay focused.

"Afterwards, you can always have time to reflect more. Just appreciate and enjoy for the whole journey.

"Atmospheres like that are what you want to be in front of since you were a little kid, watching on TV when you were young, and now you're living it. It is something I really appreciate and I'm grateful to be here now. I'm excited to keep [playing] in atmospheres like this for the future."

Brooksby required treatment a couple of times during the match and revealed he was contending with an issue to his left hip.

"Yeah, there was something. Something that kind of came up from later in the second match, then in the third one. Even with a day off, then kind of into today, like my left hip kind of was bothering me even early on and more into it," he added.

"Not like it's an excuse or anything, but it kind of went throughout the leg today a bit. I was struggling more to push off and move. But that's part of the sport. I did everything I could to feel the best I can going out there today and all the other days. There's no regrets on that.

"I definitely think if there wasn't that, I could have kept a better level up closer to the first set throughout the rest of the match."

Brooksby only reached the world's top 100 earlier this month and is now projected to be on the cusp of the top 40.

The 20-year-old relished his first experience of playing on Arthur Ashe.

"I did take time to look around a little bit, just appreciated being in an atmosphere like that with so many people cheering you on. Took a moment to still have it all in after," he said. 

"You're not going to win every match you play obviously, but you still have to enjoy it.

"I think [the belief] comes from definitely more training, but most importantly other match situations against other guys and just the whole process of it. 

"Leading up to it, I 100 per cent believed I could win against anybody. I thought I showed that with the level I could produce out there. Unfortunately, physically it got a little tougher."

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    Rafael Nadal spoke about how he is fighting against his physical decline after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6) to advance to the Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was Nadal's second consecutive straight sets win after dropping a set to both Ricardis Berankis and Francisco Cerundolo in his first two rounds.

    After not competing at Wimbledon since reaching the semi-final in 2019, Nadal is back as he tries to keep his dreams of a calendar slam alive, having won the Australian Open and the French Open already this year.

    Speaking to the media after his fourth-round win, the Spaniard declined to give detail about his injuries, saying he is "healthy enough to keep going".

    "I am a little bit tired of talking about my body," he said. "It's not that I don't want to answer the question, but at the same time, sometimes I am tired of myself, and all the issues I'm having.

    "I'd prefer to not talk about it now – I'm sorry for that – but I am in the middle of the tournament, and I have to keep going. 

    "All respect to the rest of my opponents, I am just trying my best every single day, and for the moment I am healthy enough to keep going, and to fight for the things that I want."

    He added: "I think I made a big effort to be here.

    "It takes a lot of mental and physical effort to try to play this tournament after the things I went through the last couple of months.

    "But as everybody knows, Wimbledon is a tournament that I like so much, and it's been three years without playing here. I really wanted to be back, and that's what I'm doing, so that's why it means so much to be in the quarter-finals."

    Nadal did not want to get into a discussion about his physical struggles, but it was unavoidable when he was asked about how his grass-court play has evolved over the years.

    "I won here in 2008, and I played the final in 2006 and 2007," he said. "So I have to say that during that period of time there were a lot of things I did well [on grass courts].

    "At very early stages of my career I was able to play very well on this surface too, but of course I am running less than before, that is obvious.

    "When I am losing things, in terms of physical performance, you need to add things to keep being competitive. That's what I did all my career, try to add things to my game, and improve things I need to still be competitive after losing some physical capacities, and other things you lose during your career.

    "At the same time, one of the things I'm more proud of is the way I've been able to adjust and accept the challenges in terms of physical issues, and to be able to always find a way to be competitive and improve my game."

    Looking forward to his quarter-final clash with American Taylor Fritz – who defeated Nadal in the final of the Indian Wells Masters back in March – the legend said he was in too much pain during that contest to learn any lessons.

    "Honestly, what I learned out at our last match was zero, because I had a stress fracture in my rib," he said. "That made it difficult to learn many things, because honestly the pain was terrible playing that match. 

    "He's playing at a very, very high level, having a great season, winning matches everywhere, and you can see it. He won the tournament last week – the week before Wimbledon – and now the quarter-finals, winning already in a Masters 1000, he's in a very high position in the race already."

    He added: "At the same time, we're in a quarter-final, so you can't expect an easy opponent."

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    The 27-year-old Australian needed five sets to make it past the 20-year-old American, eventually winning 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2.

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    Speaking to the media after his success, Kyrgios said everyone is dealing with niggling injuries this deep into a grand slam, but he is proud of the way he has handled adversity this time around.

    "I woke up after Tsitsipas and had some shoulder pain," he said. "I’ve played so much tennis over the last month and a half that I felt it was about time for my body to start feeling some niggles. 

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    His ability to fight through his injury was just one aspect of how Kyrgios feels he has grown as both a player and a person, touching on how far he has come since being dragged out of the pub by his manager in 2019.

    "I feel like I’ve been through so much, now I can stay composed," he said. "It’s the first time in my career that I wasn’t playing well, but I was able to say ‘wow, look how far I’ve come’ – It was rewarding. 

    "I think I’m enjoying the battle a bit more – I’m expecting everyone to play well against me now. I was that kid once, the underdog, whereas today walking on Centre Court being the favourite was completely different for me, but I was able to navigate that.

    "There was a time when I was having to be forced out of a pub at 4am to play Nadal [in the second round of 2019] – my agent had to come and get me out of a pub at 4am before I played my match on Centre Court, Wimbledon. 

    "So I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure… to sit here, quarter-finals at Wimbledon, feeling composed, mature, completely blessed and comfortable in my own skin."

    Having burst onto the scene at such a young age, Kyrgios said he feels he helped pave the way for the current generation of young stars.

    "This is almost my 10th year on Tour," he said. "I kind of feel like I was the first guy who broke through young, like at 19, beating Rafa at Wimbledon. 

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    "I think a lot of players think that Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are almost Gods and you can’t hurt them. I feel like I showed at least one of them was human that day."

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    Two days on from an ill-tempered victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas that resulted in both players been fined, Kyrgios defeated 20-year-old Brandon Nakashima to progress to the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the third time in his career.

    It will be the Australian's first appearance in the last eight of the singles draw at a major since 2015 in Melbourne, however, with his other grand slam quarter-final showing having come at Wimbledon in 2014 – Kyrgios having beaten Rafael Nadal to reach that stage on that occasion.

    Cristian Garin of Chile is next up, after what was a reasonably well-mannered display against Nakashima, who Kyrgios was full of praise for.

    Yet he still managed to spark some contention on Monday, having wore a red cap and a pair of red Nike Jordan trainers during his post-match on-court interview, breaching Wimbledon's strict dress code.

    This was put to Kyrgios in his post-match news conference, with the journalist in question asking the 27-year-old if he thought he was above the rules.

    "Because I do what I want," Kyrgios replied. "I'm not above the rules. I just like wearing my Jordans. I'll wear some [Jordan] triple whites tomorrow.

    "Nobody else, even after Wimbledon, really walks with Jordans on the court. I don't moan [about controversy], I love it – more attention for me.

    "What's that saying? Any publicity is good publicity, right?"

    Kyrgios' fellow Australian Pat Cash said over the weekend that his compatriot had taken tennis to "the lowest level".

    Yet Kyrgios insists he now laughs off criticism, which he believes is a sign of how he has matured as a player.

    "Honestly, I don't care. I just smile. It's so funny. It's hilarious," he chuckled. "I almost just wake up and read things and just laugh.

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    "I'm really able to just let that go, separate tennis and life, I think that's the most important thing."

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