WATCH: Brooksby began the 2023 season by reaching the ASB Classic semifinals in Auckland.

Jenson Brooksby makes a big day for NorCal tennis even bigger by knocking out No. 2 seed Casper Ruud, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2. The result comes hours after fellow Northern Californian Katie Volynets made her own career breakthrough in the women’s event, planting No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova in three sets.

With Berkley native Mackenzie McDonald’s Wednesday night upset of Rafael Nadal, the 2023 Australian Open marks a big week for Americans: the first major tournament since 1994 Roland Garros where American men defeated the draw’s Top 2 seeds.

The Sacramento-born Brooskby arrived for his first Australian Open—having missed his scheduled debut in 2022 due to COVID-19—with a 1-6 record against Top 10 opposition, but buoyed by a solid start to the 2023 season and a semifinal run in Auckland. By contrast, Ruud was coming off a career-best season that featured two major finals and a runner-up finish at the ATP Finals, but having effectively eschewed his off-season in favor of an exhibition tour with idol Rafael Nadal, the Norwegian appeared on fumes against the crafty 22-year-old, overwhelmed by his anticipation and big-point shotmaking to bow out on Rod Laver Arena in a grueling three hours and 55 minutes.

Ranked six spots below his career-high ranking of No. 33, Brooksby narrowly missed out on a seed and has become a regular thorn in the side of the game’s biggest names. His 2021 US Open breakthrough featured an entertaining four-setter against Novak Djokovic. The following summer, he threw the kitchen sink at Carlos Alcaraz before the eventual champion figured him out in three.

Known for his variety and all-court effort, Brooksby has, in the past, bristled at the notion that he plays defensive tennis.

“People try to understand my game, but if everyone knew how my coach and I trained, I think more people would be doing it,” he insisted over the phone last fall. “When my game is locked in and I’ve been training to a point where I have high confidence, I’m able to employ my strategy at a high level.”


Brooksby certainly had a strategy against Ruud, pinning the world No. 3 to his weaker backhand side to draw a mix of errors and short balls and allow him to ruthlessly dictate play. Though he perhaps lacks the racquetspeed of countrymen like Taylor Fritz or even J.J. Wolf, Brooksby’s placement blunted Ruud’s typically heavy forehand and forced him into a defensive shell of his own.

From break point down in the fifth game of the match, Brookby caught fire to break Ruud’s serve twice in a row to take the opening set, and showed off impressive mettle in the second set, rallying from 0-40 down to remain in front. With Ruud serving to force a tiebreaker, a long rally on set point went the American’s way thanks to a netcord winner—delighting Brooksby’s parents in the stands.

Ruud emerged from an off-court medical timeout on the back foot, falling behind another break of serve, and though he soon leveled at two games apiece, Brooksby stuck to his game plan and continued peppering the Ruud backhand until he converted a 5-2 lead.

A 10-minute ninth game saw three match points go begging; Ruud saved one with a 30-shot rally and threw up a Hail Mary lob to save another, and capitalized on some late nerves from the American to nab a surprise break that earned an effusive celebration from the No. 2 seed.

Brooksby's frustrations began to boil over in the ensuing tiebreaker as Ruud grew with confidence, smacking an inside-in forehand winner to earn five set points and converted his fourth, ironically enough, with a backhand winner.

Despite coming into the fourth set with all the momentum, Ruud found himself outfoxed by Brooksby once more and quickly fell behind a double break.

A little over an hour after his third match point, Brooksby earned a fourth with a backhand winner and converted his fifth to score the biggest win of his career.

Joining Brooksby in the winner’s circle was Volynets, who grew up in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco.

"The emotions are definitely very high," she said after her win. "They're very excited. I have not played in front of that many people before, and I didn't expect to have that many fans behind me in Australia. That's super cool! It felt really special to the point where after I won, I literally got chills by hearing their voices."

Born to Ukrainian parents, Volynets made her Grand Slam debut back in 2019 but didn’t win her first main-draw match until last year at Roland Garros. After pushing Venus Williams through two tough sets in Auckland, she battled through qualifying, defeating former world No. 9 Kristina Mladenovic in three sets in the final round.

Playing a pair of Russians in her first two matches, the 21-year-old eased past Evgeniya Rodina to find herself across the net from Kudermetova, who reached the second week in her last two Grand Slam outings—including the quarterfinals of Roland Garros. Still, the No. 9 seed has proven brittle under the Grand Slam spotlight, and Volynets gamely applied pressure to draw 47 unforced errors and win, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

The Australian summer may be brutal, but the California kids are all right.