WATCH: Brooksby's unique approach to the game, honed by coach Joseph Gilbert, has made him a must-watch talent among the crop of rising American stars.


Jenson Brooksby, or JT, as he’s known, wins with hard work and stubborn competitiveness, rather than sheer athleticism. That may not make him the most elegant player, but it makes him a relatable one for the rest of us.

1. Know Your Opponent

Many players believe that if they just “play their game,” no matter who’s on the other side of the net, they’ll be fine. Not Brooksby and his coach, Joseph Gilbert. Gilbert studies Brooksby’s opponents on video, and before each match they sit down and discuss what specific shots, patterns and tactics Brooksby should use to break that opponent down.

“I think my superpower would be exploiting weaknesses in other people,” Brooksby says.

Your Turn: Even if there’s no video available, try to watch your opponent play, or talk to people who have. Think about specific ways you can adjust your game to create the points and hit to the spots that the other player doesn’t like. Thinking tactically is also a good way to keep your mind occupied and proactive.

Brooksby earned a career-high ranking of No. 37 after making his third ATP final in August.

Brooksby earned a career-high ranking of No. 37 after making his third ATP final in August.

2. Keep Executing the Right Play

Gilbert uses an analogy involving his area’s best basketball team, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

“If the Warriors make 90 percent of their three-pointers after they run a full play,” he says, “and they make 40 percent when they just come down and throw the ball up, what do you think they should be doing?” Running the play, obviously.

Your Turn: Gilbert’s example is true for tennis, too. Once you decide on a game plan, or discover a pattern that works against an opponent, have the patience to stay with it and avoid going for cheap, early winners. It’s tempting to pull the trigger, but Gilbert believes the high-percentage play works better over time.

3. Eliminate Your Weaknesses

OK, that’s ambitious, but you should do whatever you can to minimize them. Weapons are in vogue these days, and the goal for most pros is to hit as many forehands, and as few backhands, as possible. That’s not the Gilbert-Brooksby approach. Gilbert believes that being able to hit every shot with confidence—including slices and drop shots from the forehand and backhand sides—gives Brooksby more tactical versatility. The more shots he can hit, the more ways he has to adjust to different opponents.

Your Turn: Never stop adding to your arsenal, never settle for having a shot that could be considered exploitable, and never believe there’s a skill you can’t learn. You can’t teach speed, but you can teach footwork; you can’t teach power, but you can teach a player to use angles and redirect pace.