Friday, October 8, 2021

Brooksby beats qualifier in BNP debut, will face Zverev

Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento
area, celebrates his first-round victory in Indian Wells on the giant screen outside
 Stadium 1. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Jenson Brooksby often attended the BNP Paribas Open as a young junior. Now he's playing in it.
   Making his BNP debut, the 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area defeated qualifier Cem Ilkel of Turkey 7-6 (5), 6-4 today in front of a sparse crowd in 16,100-seat Stadium 1, the second-largest tennis facility in the world behind 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   "When he was younger — 10 or 11 — he was over there (on the walkway next to the field) trying to get autographs all the time," Brooksby's father, Glen, said at a tree-shaded picnic table in a small park on the grounds. "It was really cute. He'd be out there with a million other kids trying to get autographs. He'd come back with his big ball and show us who he had.
   "(Ernests) Gulbis was one of his favorite players at that time, and he got a photo with him that he still has, and he got a photo I think with (Vasek) Pospisil. He really was excited about seeing all these top players here and getting autographs. Probably his favorite player all along has been (Rafael) Nadal just because of his energy and never-give-up attitude."
   Yes, Jenson also secured Nadal's autograph and still has the big ball, Glen noted.
   "(Jenson) had goals when he came down to get the top three or four (players) and then maybe get whoever else he could," said Glen, a Sacramento anesthesiologist. "He got Nadal's one year. I think he got (Roger) Federer's. I'm not sure he ever got (Novak) Djokovic's, though."
   Jenson took a set off Djokovic in the fourth round of the U.S. Open last month. Ranked No. 307 when he turned pro in late December, Brooksby has skyrocketed to No. 79.
   Brooksby's serve supposedly is the weakest part of his game, but it didn't seem that way against the 26-year-old Ilkel, ranked No. 179. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Brooksby won 90 percent of the points on his first serve (36 of 40) and 68 percent on his second delivery (13 of 19). He did not face a break point.
   The tiebreaker was vintage Brooksby. He rallied from 0-3 to 4-4 and won three of the last four points on two passing shots that caught the outside of the sideline sandwiched around a net-cord winner. After Brooksby's set-winning shot, Ilkel put his hands on his hips in disbelief as he watched the replay. 
   Brooksby earned the only service break of the second set with a backhand passing shot down the line to lead 3-2. 
   Now comes the hard part. Brooksby is scheduled to face 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) German Alexander Zverev, ranked fourth and seeded third, for the first time on Sunday. All seeds receive first-round byes.
   Zverev, who's under investigation for domestic abuse, reached the U.S. Open final last year, losing to Dominic Thiem 7-6 in the fifth set after leading two sets to none, and won the singles gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in August.
   Did Glen Brooksby ever think his only child would play in the BNP Paribas Open one day?
   "It's a good question," he said. "You always hope that your kid succeeds in what they want to do, but you just always feel like there's so much competition. In every age group, he was in the top 10 in the U.S., but we always played him up a lot, so it seemed like he was losing a lot of matches and winning a lot of matches. You always have this sense that maybe someone else is going to beat him out, someone else is better. You feel like the odds are against you. ... We hoped."
   In a late second-round women's match, No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., dispatched Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-2, 6-3.
   Pegula, whose parents own the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, reached a Northern California final at 18 in 2012 and semifinal in 2018. Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 73. 
   In the first round of men's doubles, No. 2 seeds and reigning U.S. Open champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain edged Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Luke Saville of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3 [10-8]. Ram won the BNP doubles title in 2017 with Raven Klaasen of South Africa.
   Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native now living in Agoura Hills in the Los Angeles region, edged Lloyd Harris and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-7 (2) [10-7]. 
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 6 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia outclassed No. 2 seed Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
   Jakupovic is set to play No. 4 seed Lu Jia-Jing of China on Saturday. Lu reached the doubles final of last week's $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger with Liang En-Shuo of Chinese Taipei.
   In the other semifinal, No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain will meet unseeded Catherine Harrison of Germantown, Tenn. Swan won a $25,000 tournament in Orlando, Fla., in February and qualified for Wimbledon before losing to No. 23 seed Madison Keys in the first round.
   College — Eryn Cayetano of USC bested Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area) of Wake Forest 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

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