No. 2 seeds upset in men’s and women’s draws
MELBOURNE, Australia — Oh-so close to completing a back-to-back upset of the No. 2 seed Casper Ruud at the Australian Open, Jenson Brooksby wasted three match points, sat down at a change and started yelling at each other.
“How?! How?! God!!”
His face was flushed, his emotions unhidden, his game unraveling. Soon that set eclipsed, as Ruud’s confidence seemed to skyrocket and Brooksby’s meltdown continued momentarily. And then, in the blink of an eye, Brooksby was back in charge, immediately taking command in the fourth set en route to a 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2 win over Ruud and a place in a surprisingly American third round at Melbourne Park.
“I was getting a little more frustrated there that I didn’t shut it down, and my mentality was changing a bit,” said Brooksby, 39, who sipped small jars of pickle juice in the fourth set at Rod Laver Arena. . “Those are the situations you have to deal with sometimes in matches, and you’re going to deal with them. I think the bigger question is: how do you respond? I just told myself to reset.
So leave it to a pair of Californians in their twenties to rid the men’s group of its two highest-ranked players: Brooksby, 22, delivered his unexpected triumph at the same stage and in the same stadium as mackenzie mcdonald27, beat No. 1 seed and defending champ Rafael Nadal a day earlier. This makes it the first Grand Slam tournament since the 2002 Australian Open which the No. 1 and 2 seeds lost before the end of the second round.
The two No. 2 singles seeds were upset on Thursday. Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, vice-champion of Wimbledon and the US Open, was ousted by the vice-champion of France 2019 Marketa Vondrousova Czech Republic 6-1, 5-7, 6-1.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWINGS: Women | Men
Nadal holds a men’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles. Ruud was a runner-up at the French Open against Nadal last June and at the US Open against Carlos Alcaraz last September.
Their outings are a big deal and make nine-time champion Novak Djokovic – who overcame a medical timeout for a hamstring injury to beat Enzo Couacaud 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-0 on Thursday night – even more of a title favorite when he returns to Australia after being sent off a year ago for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Also a big issue: the progress of the American men in the first major championship of the year. None have won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.
Upon reaching the third round, Brooksby joined his compatriots Michael Mmoh, Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul and JJ Wolfwho also won Thursday, with McDonald, No. 16 Frances Tiafoe and no. 29 Sebastien Korda, all of whom won on Wednesday. The highest-ranked American, however, couldn’t go that far: No. 8 Taylor Fritz retired with a 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 loss to a 113th-ranked Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin.
Mmoh, who lost in qualifying but entered the main draw when another player retired, reached that stage at a major tournament for the first time by beating the No.12 Alexander Zverev 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
“Life is crazy. Just when you think everything seems dark, everything seems dark, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mmoh, 107th. “My week is proof of that.”
Shelton, the University of Florida NCAA champion competing in his second Slam, beat the qualifier Nicolas Jarry Chile 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5; Paul returned to Edge No. 30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Spain 6-2, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4; and Wolf passed No. 23 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Brooksby now plays Paul; Mmoh confronts Wolf.
“A lot of Americans are doing really well right now, and we’re all pushing each other,” Brooksby said. “I can’t wait to see the next one.”
There was also a big win for an American on Thursday: 21-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets defeated the No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova Russia 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
Elsewhere, n° 4 Caroline Garcia beat US Open 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez 7-6 (5), 7-5, No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka improved their 2023 record to 6-0 by overtaking Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1 after leading 3-1 early, and No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Taylor Townsend 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“I literally have chills because the fans here are just amazing,” said Volynets, who reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. “I have never played in such a crowded stadium and with so many people keeping the energy for me. It was great.”
Brooksby was supposed to be at the Australian Open a year ago but caught COVID-19 the day before he left overseas.
“Hopefully this is the first of many good years here to come,” Brooksby said.
His unusual style of play, including his two-handed backhand volleys and ability to track down opponents’ shots, caused problems for Ruud, who took a medical time-out after the second set due to a muscle annoying abdominal.
“He was terribly good today,” said Ruud, a 24-year-old Norwegian coached by his father, a former professional player.
The biggest problem for Brooksby was closing this one. He held a trio of match points as he tried to serve for the 5-3 win in the third set but couldn’t take any.
Ruud ran until the end of that set, but Brooksby recovered in the fourth, taking a 3-0 lead. Brooksby ended things 1 hour and 15 minutes after his first chance.
At the end of the match, Brooksby said, “The first thing that came to mind was that I was just proud of my mental resolve just to stay focused out there.”
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