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Jenson Brooksby has heard your takes on his game
The young American with an unorthodox style and California swagger is eager to employ lessons learned from an up-and-down year as he celebrates his 22nd birthday.
Published Oct 26, 2022
WATCH: Brooksby reached three ATP semifinals in 2022 and reached two finals to earn a career-high ranking of No. 33 in June.
“I think sometimes parts of what people say are accurate, but other things they say are less accurate,” Jenson Brooksby says over the phone after reaching his third ATP semifinal of the season in Seoul.
On a tour where style has homogenized as much as surface and ball speed, the 6’4” Brooksby has been a breath of fresh air, employing an unorthodox approach to match play that has felled players like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Félix Auger-Aliassime and famously flummoxed Novak Djokovic throughout an entertaining four-setter at the 2021 US Open.
But though he lacks the weaponry of friendly rival Reilly Opelka, who has heaped praise on his young countryman, the newly-turned 22-year-old believes his game can have a similar effect.
“When people say I’m a defensive player, that’s an inaccurate statement,” he adds with some emphasis. “It’s funny, because I sometimes see people say that.”
Brooksby insists he largely stays off social media—opting instead for sports highlights on YouTube—but it’s clear he’s aware of the noise surrounding his game, not all of it positive.
“People try to understand my game, but if everyone knew how my coach and I trained, I think more people would be doing it. 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.”
When people say I’m a defensive player, that’s an inaccurate statement. Jenson Brooksby
That level has been on display for much of his first full season on tour, carrying momentum from a 2021 breakthrough that saw him reach a maiden ATP 250 final in Newport ahead of his Arthur Ashe Stadium clash with Djokovic. Weathering a COVID bout that ruled him out of the Australian summer, Brooksby finished runner-up in his second tournament of the season in Dallas, and reached back-to-back fourth rounds at the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open.
The former holds special significance for the California native, who takes the court in kits from SoCal apparel company Uomo Sport and plans to spend his off-season vacation time at home in Sacramento in between Florida training blocs.
“I would go to the Indian Wells tournament with my dad when I was around 10-14. If I reflect back on that now, it’s pretty funny to think I was watching the guys like Tomas Berdych, getting to sit really close to the court and thinking both guys were just hitting the ball so big, how it would be a dream to get there one day.”
A similarly bright start to the North American summer and a third career final in Atlanta gave way to more mixed results that exposed the drawbacks of a game that relies primarily on mental aggression: where Opelka can employ an ace-assisted autopilot, Brooksby must be “on” far more often to avoid the sort of tactical misfires that can drive the American to frustration.
“We’re always trying to find things in my game that make other things come more easily,” Brooksby said of his work with coach Joseph Gilbert. “If we can achieve simple things that help other aspects fall into place, that’s always what we aim for.
“Mentally, to be able to just play disciplined points and be able to make strong decisions over longer periods of time in a match, we’re trying to train that better. That’s definitely the goal for next year, and I think it’ll only make my game better over the course of more matches.”
Brooksby comes away from 2022 with tremendous clarity, aiming to put all his energy into practice and on-court repetition after taking time to adjust to tour life and rhythm.
“I think really one of the biggest things is learning that my focus needs to be, first and foremost, on my tennis, more than anything else. As we tried to learn and improve other things outside the tennis, whether that was fitness, recovery, or nutrition—things I want to take seriously and get better with—but I think with everything else, it distracted me from focusing purely on the tennis. Those are the kinds of things that will all be more in place next year such that I won’t have to think about it as much.”
Down to No. 50 from a June career-high of No. 33, Brooksby’s hopes for an aggressive European onslaught and Top 30 debut took a hit when he endured a third straight defeat at the Swiss Indoors in Basel, but will have one last shot at resetting the narrative when he arrives at the Rolex Paris Masters—where he’ll make his main-draw debut.
“I definitely expected some highs and lows,” said Brooksby, who spoke about taking inspiration from watching 8 Mile starring favorite rapper, Eminem. “The first full year on tour, there’s so much to be learned. It’s not easy but I think I have to look at all the things I experienced, whether they were positives or negatives, but to view them all as positives in the sense that we won’t repeat the negative things next year and build off the positives.
“Overall, it’s going to help a lot because I hope to have another 15 years left to go. This first year was good for learning things about our process and how to manage things better on the road and at home. For now, I’m just excited to keep competing and finishing this year off and then we’ll have some talks on how to handle next year even better.”