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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Prepping to play Djokovic with out day-before apply, plan

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Nobody all 12 months has discovered beat Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam match. Now it’s Jenson Brooksby’s flip to strive — and the way in which he, and his coach since age 7, went about issues forward of time have been as unique because the 20-year-old Californian’s taking part in model.

Brooksby, who started this season ranked exterior the highest 300 and is now a career-best 99th, is a wild-card entry at this surprise-filled U.S. Open. He is scheduled to tackle No. 1 Djokovic on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.


“I consider I’ve the sport, undoubtedly, to go all the way in which. I didn’t doubt that in my very own thoughts. I didn’t put any expectations like attain a second week or something. I don’t actually suppose like that,” mentioned Brooksby, whose on-court strategy is all about spins and angles, highlighted by an uncommon two-handed backhand slice. “I do have the arrogance in myself that I can go actually far in no matter match I play. Clearly the subsequent one’s one other large match, however simply attempt to put together the identical as all of the others.”

So go about preparing for a Week 2 debut at a Slam in a 23,000-capacity enviornment in opposition to one of many greats? An extended day of apply and detailed game-planning?

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Not fairly.

Brooksby’s coach, Joe Gilbert, determined to relaxation Sunday and steer clear of the courts utterly. And, as is normally the case, they won’t talk about techniques till proper earlier than Brooksby walks out of the locker room to face Djokovic.

“That is all model new,” Gilbert mentioned in an interview with The Related Press. “However I really feel like, as a result of I’ve been with him so lengthy, figuring out what he must be good, to be prepared for the match, is fairly straightforward. … In his world, (under-18 nationwide) finals when he was 17 was large. It is a a lot larger feeling, but it surely’s comparable: ‘Hey, that is new. I’ve feelings, emotions.’ All that form of stuff.”

They linked when Gilbert gave tennis classes to Brooksby’s dad and mom. Gilbert, whose JMG Tennis Academy in Sacramento develops juniors, says he noticed little Jenson hitting a ball off a wall, was impressed by his focus, and requested in opposition to whom he was “taking part in” in his head; the reply: Rafael Nadal.

Thus started a relationship that’s as a lot about mentoring as it’s teaching.

It was a match involving 20-time main champion Nadal that Brooksby watched “from the nosebleeds” on the 2019 U.S. Open, in response to his advisor, Amrit Narasimhan — the one time Brooksby has been inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Brooksby spent the beginning of the 12 months almost unbeatable on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour. Now he faces Djokovic, who already owns 20 main championships and is 24-0 on the sport’s most vital tournaments in 2021.

Djokovic is 4 wins away from the primary calendar-year Grand Slam in males’s tennis since Rod Laver in 1969.

“When you learn (his) resume earlier than you go play him you’re going to lose,” Gilbert mentioned with fun. “After all you’re going to.”

Brooksby’s resume contains beating 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych after qualifying for the U.S. Open two years in the past, and a surge this season that options three Challenger trophies, the ultimate of an ATP 250 occasion in Newport, Rhode Island, and the semifinals of an ATP 500 occasion in Washington.

“I’m curious to see his match with Djokovic,” mentioned Reilly Opelka, an American who’s seeded twenty second and meets South Africa’s Lloyd Harris on Monday. “I feel he can provide Djokovic quite a lot of suits as a result of he’s simply difficult.”

Not like gamers, reminiscent of Opelka, who win with a components that begins with an enormous serve and an enormous forehand, Brooksby depends on a extra delicate strategy and a deft contact.

It’s all he’s ever identified, basically, as a result of Gilbert developed that strategy from the very begin.

“He’s not taking part in with energy. He’s not taking part in with serve-plus-one. He’s not creating an enormous weapon. Plenty of what we discuss is patterns; the place we expect now we have the benefit,” Gilbert mentioned. “I take a look at the opposite man and I am going, ‘That is the place I feel the holes are. That is the easiest way to get to these holes.’ His job is to go execute it.”

Gilbert likened it to a basketball coach in search of — and aiming to use — favorable matchups in opposition to one other workforce.

As soon as Gilbert discovers these areas, he retains them to himself till 5 or 10 minutes earlier than Brooksby competes.

“It’s finest to do it that approach so he doesn’t over-analyze it,” Gilbert mentioned. “It’s the very last thing he hears and it’s recent in his head.”


After beating No. 21 seed Aslan Karatsev in 5 units Saturday night time, Brooksby was requested: “What goes by way of your thoughts when you consider Novak Djokovic’s profession and the way in which he performs?”

The response was: “Um, I don’t know a lot, truthfully. I don’t actually watch a lot or take into consideration that an excessive amount of.”

That, Gilbert mentioned, made him smile as he thought, “However I do.”

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