MATCH POINT: Brooksby seals bagel finish

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With the way Jenson Brooksby has played throughout 2021, the 20-year-old likely won't have to deal with qualifying into ATP events for much longer.

Brooksby rounded out the semifinalists at the European Open Friday in Antwerp on the back of another convincing victory, with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina succumbing this time, 7-5, 6-0. The world No. 70 put pressure on Davidovich Fokina’s second serve, winning 72 percent of those points to break the Spaniard five times.

“I think having two matches in qualies definitely helped me get some matches under my belt here. Keep progressing since I think,” he said on court afterwards. “The crowd is amazing. I didn’t expect this much energy out here. That was so cool.”

Through five matches played in his event debut—two of which came via the qualifying rounds—Brooksby has dropped zero sets and 27 games en route to his third tour-level semifinal of the year (Newport, Washington, D.C.). Thanks to his efforts this week, Brooksby also clinched the fifth spot at Milan’s Next Gen ATP Finals.

The owner of three ATP Challenger titles this season, Brooksby is two victories away from stepping into the ATP Tour winner’s circle for the first time. Second seed Diego Schwartzman hopes to stop him.

Brooksby is projected to break into the Top 50 if he departs Antwerp with the title in hand.

Brooksby is projected to break into the Top 50 if he departs Antwerp with the title in hand.

A day after outclassing 2019 champion Andy Murray, Schwartzman dismissed qualifier Brandon Nakashima, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 34 minutes. The Argentine claimed 24 of his 26 first-serve points to move another step closer to his first indoor title.

Earlier, top seed Jannik Sinner advanced past Arthur Rinderknech, 6-4, 6-2, as he bids to lift his fourth crown of the season. The Italian struck 17 winners versus just six unforced errors to avenge May's Lyon defeat.

“I’m very happy about my performance today,” Sinner said when addressing the crowd. “He’s a great player, he wants to hit hard. I tried to stay solid, trying to play deep.”

Sinner began the week ranked No. 11 in the race to the ATP Finals, but can surpass Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie and move within 110 points of catching Hubert Hurkacz (currently last in line to qualify) with a title run. On Saturday, the Italian meets seventh seed Lloyd Harris, a 6-2, 7-5 winner over Marton Fucsovics.

Like Brooksby, Harris is seeking his first tour-level triumph. The 24-year-old reached his second career ATP final in March, finishing runner-up to Aslan Karatsev at Dubai.