For half an hour Monday night, Novak Djokovic’s opponent in the US Open fourth round, Jenson Brooksby, gave him an almighty scare and created a raucous atmosphere under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
That let Djokovic know that Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from California who ranks 99th in the world, belonged. And then unsurprisingly, Djokovic showed why he has managed to move within three wins of the first calendar-year grand slam in men’s tennis in 52 years.
Settling in and messaging Brooksby with a few glances, Djokovic improved to 25-0 in the majors this year by winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. He extended his quest for a record 21st major championship while eliminating the last American singles player in the tournament. It is the first time in the history of an event dating back to the 1880s that no man or woman from the host country has reached the quarter-finals.
One of the keys to Djokovic’s turnaround, as good a returner as he is: he broke Brooksby’s opening service game in each of the last three sets. Perhaps affected by the physical nature of the lengthy exchanges, Brooksby was visited by a coach after the second set and again after the third. Still, for someone who had never set foot on Ashe’s blue court until about two hours before the game, Brooksby never seemed overwhelmed by the setting or the circumstances.
In the first set, Brooksby made an unforced error, Djokovic 11. And Brooksby won 14 of the points that lasted five strokes or more, Djokovic four. When Djokovic scored an overload to move Brooksby within two points of the set, the majority of the spectators in the 23,000-plus-spectator arena stood up, clapping and shouting. When Djokovic missed a lap to give up the set to his enemy, Brooksby waved both arms and heard stronger support.
But Djokovic quickly snapped to go up 2-0 in the second set and punched the air and screamed. At 3-1, the fans enjoyed an epic game – six break points, good two, 24 points in total, spread over nearly 20 minutes. Djokovic pushed the ball into the net to end the game and make it 3-2, causing Brooksby to jump and jump and grind his arm and yell, “Come on!”
And then, as quickly as possible, Djokovic regrouped. With Brooksby gasping for air, Djokovic snapped back, and soon the result was clear. Djokovic will then face sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy in a rematch of the Wimbledon final.
Djokovic paid tribute to Brooksby in his on-court interview, saying: “He just played a perfect first set, I couldn’t do much because I was still finding my rhythm. He disguises his shots very well and is very talented. He is such a clever and clever player. He’s only 20, so he has a long time ahead of him. “
Djokovic pointed to the middle of the second set as the turning point.
“I think the momentum changed in the middle of the second set when I went through a couple of long games and then I started hitting more cleanly,” added Djokovic. “Overall it was a very physical battle with a lot of exciting rallies, and the credit for his performance tonight was fantastic.”
Earlier on Monday, Alexander Zverev booked his place in the quarterfinals with his 15th consecutive victory. The German beat 13th seed Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6. He will play the South African Lloyd Harris, who got rid of another American, Reilly Opelka.
US Open Men’s Singles Quarterfinals
Novak Djokovic (1) v Matteo Berrettini (6)
Alexander Zverev (4) v Lloyd Harris
Felix Auger-Aliassime (12) v Carlos Alcaraz
Botic van de Zandschulp v Daniil Medvedev (2)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism