Melbourne: Second seed Casper Ruud’s Australian Open 2023 campaign has come to a screeching halt at the talented hands of Jenson Brooksby.
The fired-up 22-year-old American stepped up to deliver a 6-3 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 victory over his favoured foe in three hours and 55 minutes on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
Brooksby’s heroics, in addition to Californian Mackenzie McDonald’s triumph over injured defending champion Rafael Nadal on Wednesday, means American men have taken out the two top seeds at a major for the first time since Roland Garros 1994 – before either Brooksby or McDonald were born.
Viewers without any context might have picked Brooksby as the second seed.
Compelling from the get-go, the world No.39 commandeered a 30-stroke rally to break for a 4-3 lead and blazed a stunning forehand winner to snatch the opening set, AO reported.
Often overwhelmed and put out of position by Brooksby’s aggressive shot-making, Ruud had little reason to first pump. The Norwegian, who misfired backhand volleys and sprayed backhands long, couldn’t stop a lucky net-cord winner from ending a 26-stroke rally to hand his opponent the second set.
Ruud, after taking a medical timeout, split breaks with Brooksby to start the third before conceding his serve in the sixth game, falling into a 2-5 hole.
Amid an onset of nerves, Brooksby missed an opportunity to convert three match points at 5-4, one which Ruud saved with a crisp volley en route to a crucial break.
“How? How?” a distraught Brooksby screamed, berating himself for squandering his match points.
The emotional rollercoaster continued through the tiebreak as Ruud, with his back against the wall, began striking groundstrokes with newfound freedom and walking with a pep in his step.
But the Norwegian’s purple patch was brief. Shaking off the tentativeness that took over during the business end of the third set, Brooksby resumed control of proceedings with an early double break.
An increasingly frustrated Ruud began questioning himself, shouting “Why? Why?” The Norwegian snared one break back, only to immediately donate his next service game to Brooksby.
Serving for the match at 5-2, some 75 minutes after his earlier trio of match points, Brooksby sealed victory as a Ruud return flew long on match point number five. The American celebrated with a wry smile as he raised both arms in relief.
Brooksby’s Australian Open debut run is gathering steam. By defeating Ruud, the youngster has advanced to the round of 32 at a major for a fourth time, following recent success at his home slam, the US Open, and at Wimbledon 2022.
The occasion marks the American’s second-ever top-five scalp, with Ruud joining Stefanos Tsitsipas on the short list.
He will next stare across the net at countryman Tommy Paul, who hit his way through 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 2-6 6-7(4) 6-3 6-4 in three hours and 50 minutes on Thursday.
“That’s going to be another battle for sure,” Brooksby said.