NEWPORT — Before arriving on Bellevue Avenue to compete in the International Tennis Hall of Fame Open, the lone professional grass court tournament remaining in America, Californian Jenson Brooksby had never played a match on grass — either as an amateur or a pro.
The one-time Baylor Bulldog with less than a year’s experience playing professional tennis won for the third time on grass Friday, stunning 32-year-old veteran Peter Gojowczyk, 6-0, 6-3 in the tourney’s quarterfinals.
“I’ve adjusted well (on grass), a good reason for that is that I don’t worry too much about conditions,” Brooksby said of battling dampness in the air earlier in the week and humidity at the end of the week. “I fine-tune little parts of my game.
“I try to keep it similar, whether it’s hard courts, grass or clay and adjust to how the surface plays.”
Brooksby will be opposed in Saturday’s semifinal by 27-year-old, and No. 71 ranked Australian, Jordan Thompson, who held off 6-foot-6 Californian Maxime Cressy 6-3, 7-6 (6) in their quarterfinal match.
“I definitely believe my level of play has improved,” Brooksby said of turning pro. “I’ve played with more discipline and I’ve focused. I’ve hit the right shots better in practice more often which has made it easier to transfer both mentally and confidence wise in the matches.
“My physicality has gotten better, those factors are big. “
Against Gojowczyk, Brooksby claimed the first set in a half-hour, taking service breaks in the second, fourth and sixth games.
“I’m never surprised, everything happens for a reason,” Brooksby said of the manner in which he prevailed. “It was a battle, but I’m glad that I turned it around in the second set.”
After dropping service in the first game of the second set, Brooksby broke back in the fourth game to knot the score at 2-2. Then Brooksby won the final three games of the set, taking another service break in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead. He closed out the match by holding service at love in the ninth game.
Gojowczyk turned pro in 2006 — when Brooksby was five years old — and has played in 408 career matches at the ATP and Challenger levels while Brooksby has appeared in just 32.
Brooksby won 77 percent of his first=service points (23-for-30) compared to Gojowczyk winning 56 percent and hitting five double faults. Brooksby served just three aces, but won 56 of the 87 points contested in the 62-minute match.
“Winning a first set is good, it’s how I respond to it and keep my focus,” Brooksby said. “I knew that I could turn it around.”
Brooksby has a 21-2 record in Challenger events this season and has won three events, but that’s the Triple-A level of pro tennis.
“It’s nice that we get cars here, we have breakfast, lunch, little easier access to laundry,” Brooksby said. “It’s little things like that benefit the players.
Brooksby opted not to play any grass tournaments in England, including Wimbledon.
“I played a hardcourt challenger in Orlando and pulled out (due to an arm injury) in the quarterfinals and Wimbledon was a week later, I just wasn’t ready,” he said. “I didn’t want to push it.
Brooksby has served well, taking eight aces and only two double faults on his service games, winning 78 percent of his first service points.
“I expect good things from myself,” he added. “Everything is going good.”
Brooksby was wide-eyed at the 2018 US Open, coming out of the qualifiers as an amateur.
“Those are good experiences, that was a good learning experience,” he said. “I see myself as one of those players. I don’t have a specific ranking goal — that’s more distracting. I want to play more ATP events consistently. I want to have those opportunities and have my game keep getting better at this level.”