Is American men’s tennis back?
World No. 39 Jenson Brooksby has pulled off a giant upset, eliminating World No. 3 Casper Ruud as the top two seeds bowed out in back to back days to American youngsters.
Yesterday it was an injured Rafael Nadal bowing out to Mackenzie McDonald — today was Brooksby’s turn in a commanding 6-3 7-5 6-7 6-2 win to continue a brilliant maiden Australian Open campaign.
Ruud’s early exit leaves the tournament without its top two seeds in week one.
It also clears the path for Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Melbourne title and temporarily derails Ruud’s dreams of becoming world number one.
Now only Djokovic or Stefanos Tsitsipas can take the No. 1 mantle off Carlos Alcaraz, but only if they win the title.
It didn’t all go his way as Brooksby has erupted at the end of the third set after he missed a golden opportunity to finish off World No. 2 Casper Ruud, having lost three match points to go to a fourth set.
But he made no mistake in the fourth dominating the Norwegian to book a place in the next round against fellow American Tommy Paul, who ousted 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five sets earlier in the day.
“First and foremost, Casper is a warrior, I knew it would be a great battle out there,” Brooksby said.
“I’m just really proud of my mental resolve after the third-set battle didn’t go my way, and to turn it around.
“I thought I was playing really strong and I just didn’t want to lose my focus out there.” The 24-year-old Ruud’s defeat ended any hope he had of assuming the world number one ranking from Carlos Alcaraz, who is absent from Melbourne with an injury.
It’s the first time since the 1994 French Open that the top two seeds have been knocked out by Americans and shows the renewed depth of US tennis.
Currently 13 American men are in the top 100 players in the world — headlined by World No. 9 Taylor Fritz, world No. 17 Frances Tiafoe and World No. 31 Sebastian Korda.
And at least seven, or as many as 11 will make it through the third round at the Aussie Open.
Although it’s not back to the era of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick quite yet, it’s a promising performance from the US as it seeks to re-establish itself as a tennis powerhouse 20 years since Roddick was its last grand slam champion at the 2003 US Open.
For the record, Paul is ranked No. 35, setting up a mouth-watering clash between the young Americans for a place in the fourth round.
They traded breaks through a gruelling second set before the American earned a set point at 5-6 and after a 26-shot rally moved two sets clear on a lucky net cord.
Ruud left the court for a medical time-out at the changeover, apparently for an abdominal problem.
His game didn’t improve when he returned, broken two more times before staging a remarkable comeback.
He saved three match points at 3-5 as Brooksby became agitated, slamming his racquet on the ground, before taking it to a tie-break where he broke early to take it to a fourth set.
But, undeterred, the gutsy American reset to break Ruud immediately and race to a 3-0 lead before closing out the win.
The US was very impressed by what it’s seen.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Ruud was all praise for Brooksby.
Asked about the words he said at the net at the end of the match, Ruud said: “I said, Well played, and that he was
annoyingly good today.”
“It‘s a tough matchup for me, and I know it’s going to be for many years probably,” Ruud admitted.
“I will try to learn from it. You know, I think that he played great today. I mean, didn‘t make many errors at all.
“I didn‘t feel like I played particularly bad or not the level that I wanted to play, but he just ended up winning many of the longer rallies and had sort of an answer to all the questions that I asked him sort of.”
— with AFP