By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — Jenson Brooksby eliminated No. 2 seed Casper Ruud, 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday (Wednesday night PT) in Rod Laver Arena, meaning a pair of 20-something Californians have knocked out the top two players in the men’s bracket.
The 22-year-old Brooksby’s surprise came in the same round and on the same court where 27-year-old Mackenzie McDonald defeated top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal on Wednesday at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.
Brooksby is ranked 39th and making his Australian Open debut. He was supposed to enter a year ago but came down with COVID-19 the day before he was supposed to fly to Australia.
“Hopefully this is the first of many many good years here to come,” Brooksby said.
Ruud was the runner-up at the French Open to Nadal last June and at the U.S. Open to Carlos Alcaraz last September.
Brooksby’s unusual playing style, including his two-handed backhand volleys, and ability to track down opponent’s shots, were trouble for Ruud, who took a medical timeout after the second set.
The biggest problem for Brooksby was closing this one out. He held a trio of match points while trying to serve for the victory at 5-3 in the third set but could not cash any of them in.
After he got broken there after missing a backhand, Brooksby sat down in his changeover seat and yelled at himself: “How?! How?! God!”
Ruud, a 24-year-old Norwegian, raced through the end of that set, but Brooksby righted himself in the fourth, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Brooksby finished things off 75 minutes after his first chance.
His performance continued the run of strong play by men from the United States during Week 1, a significant development given that no American man has won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open.
By reaching the third round, Brooksby joins countrymen Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul and J.J. Wolf, who also won Thursday, along with McDonald, No. 16 Frances Tiafoe and No. 29 Sebastian Korda, who all won Wednesday.
Shelton beat qualifier Nicolas Jarry of Chile, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5; Paul came back to edge No. 30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, 6-2, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4; and Wolf breezed past No. 23 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
“A lot of Americans doing really well right now, and we’re all pushing each other,” said Brooksby, who now will face Paul. “Just looking forward to the next one.”
There was also a big win for an American woman Thursday: 21-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets defeated No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
Elsewhere, No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka improved her 2023 record to 6-0 by topping Shelby Rogers, 6-3, 6-1, after trailing 3-1 early, and No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova beat Taylor Townsend, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“I literally have the chills, because the fans here are just incredible,” said Volynets, who reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. “I’ve never played in a stadium this packed and with that many people keeping the energy up for me. It was awesome.”