Sunday, April 25, 2021

Brooksby's rare feat: Hardcourt, clay titles in two weeks

Jenson Brooksby, shown last week in Orlando, Fla., be-
came the first man in five years to win hardcourt and clay
Challengers back-to-back. Photo courtesy of USTA
   Once again, the odds seemed stacked against Jenson Brooksby.
   Once again, he beat them.
   As commentator Mike Cation noted during today's live-stream telecast, "The kid just finds a way."
   Brooksby, a 20-year-old resident of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, outlasted Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to win the $52,080 Tallahassee (Fla.) Tennis Challenger on green clay.
   By surviving the 2-hour, 20-minute battle of unseeded players, Brooksby became the first man since Florian Mayer of Germany in 2016 to win hardcourt and clay-court Challengers back-to-back. Brooksby claimed the title in last week's $52,080 Orlando Open.
   Mayer, a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, peaked at No. 18 in the world in 2011 and retired in 2018.
   Brooksby, who shocked 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open as an 18-year-old qualifier and turned pro in December, has won 10 consecutive matches and 19 of 21 on the Challenger circuit with three titles this year.
   Ranked No. 310 at the beginning of the year, Brooksby will soar another 28 places to a career-high No. 166 on Monday. Fratangelo — yes, he was named after Bjorn Borg — will improve 27 spots to No. 194 after climbing as high as No. 99 in 2016.
   Like Rafael Nadal, Brooksby has an incredible will to win, going all out on every point. Unlike Nadal, Brooksby is volatile, flinging his racket in disgust when he struggles.
   Brooksby avenged a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Fratangelo, 27, five weeks ago in the final of the $52,080 Cleveland Open in an indoor hardcourt. Playing on clay this time seemingly favored Fratangelo, who 10 years ago became the first American to win the French Open boys singles title since John McEnroe in 1977. Brooksby, meanwhile, played in his first clay-court tournament in two years in Tallahassee.
   Fratangelo also was the fresher player today, having lost in the second round in Orlando and having played only one three-set match in Tallahassee before the final. 
   Fratangelo overcame 31 aces by 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Ivo Karlovic in a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) victory over the 42-year-old Croat in the opening round and received a walkover in the second round.
   Brooksby needed 2 hours, 6 minutes to subdue top-seeded Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the second round and was extended to three sets in his subsequent three matches, although eighth-seeded Michael Mmoh retired at 1-4 in the third set of the quarterfinals with a shoulder injury and both of Saturday's semifinals were interrupted by rain for several hours.
   Repeatedly coming up with big first-serves, the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Brooksby saved 16 of 19 break points against Fratangelo and converted all five of his break-point opportunities. In the third set, he escaped one break point to hold for 2-1 and five to hold for 3-2 as Fratangelo, who won the 2018 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger, failed to capitalize on Brooksby's soft second serve.
   After Brooksby ripped a lunging backhand down-the-line passing shot that landed on the sideline at 1-1 in the third set, Fratangelo muttered, "No ----ing way. ... How easy is tennis for you right now?"
   Brooksby recorded the only break of the third set with Fratangelo serving at 3-4. After Brooksby aggressively returned Fratangelo's second serve on break point with a backhand passing shot down the line, Cation intoned: "I think back to those decisions (by Fratangelo) in that 2-all game with Brooksby serving. Fratangelo had (two) second-serve looks and didn't go for that shot," Cation said. "Brooksby did."
   Brooksby converted his third championship point with an overhead. 
   Colleges — The third-seeded California women beat second-seeded Stanford 4-1 in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Championships in San Diego. The Bears (16-6) will meet top-seeded UCLA (19-3) on Monday at noon.
   The top-seeded Stanford men (10-5) lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to fifth-seeded Arizona State (16-7) in the Pac-12 semifinals in San Diego. In the deciding match, Max McKennon edged Timothy Sah, a senior playing in his hometown, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (8) on Court 5.

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