By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
No. 5 Baylor men’s tennis already had a full arsenal of talent and competitive edge. Add to that the most sought-after recruit in the nation and the Bears could be on their way to their best season yet.
Sacramento, Calif., freshman Jenson Brooksby has already faced one of the biggest challenges in tennis on one of the biggest stages: the U.S. Open.
The then-18-year-old made headlines when he defeated former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round of the main draw at Flushing Meadow in New York City. And even though he suffered a loss in the next round, Brooksby said the experience only served to improve the confidence he had in game.
“It was an amazing experience,” Brooksby said. “It was great to be able to deal with the pressure, you know, big crowds, stuff like that. This bigger atmosphere helped me get more confidence in myself. Doing well there and just showing, anyone I play or wherever I’m at, I can just stay focused. Get my game better.”
Brooksby had committed to play for Baylor under head coach Brian Boland in Dec. 2018, but the opportunities he gained from his performance in the Open had everyone wondering if he would decide to go pro instead.
“It was a choice between college or pro,” Brooksby said. “This scenario here at Baylor is amazing with Coach Boland and all the surrounding guys. I mean, I did multiple visits, but this is by far the best situation for me to grow as a tennis player and elsewhere.”
Now, almost five months later, the 19-year-old Brooksby is adapting to college life in Waco and enjoying spending time with his teammates as they begin the season with big goals in mind. According to Boland, Brooksby has embraced everything about being a Baylor Bear.
“I couldn’t ask for a more humble, hard-working, focused and mature young man, considering all the success he has had,” Boland said. “He came in here and really got to know his teammates, staff and everyone around the program and has been nothing but respectful, enjoyable to be around and someone that loves being part of the team.”
It may a while before Brooksby hits the court to compete for the Green and Gold as he’s currently sidelined with a turf toe injury, but the freshman said he’s dealing with it day-by-day until he’s back 100 percent.
“It’s tough with the injuries — the timelines — you never really know,” Brooksby said. “I’m just doing what I can every day. Like to give you a rough timeline, just day by day you do what you can to get better. So, once you’re back, it’s a shorter transition on the court, and I just control what I can control.”
In the meantime, his team is off to a solid start with wins over Boise State, UTSA and Nebraska during opening weekend. The Bears will host ITA Kick-Off weekend beginning Saturday. Boland said the team has a long road ahead but that he was happy with the way his players competed in the season’s first three matches.
“I thought we competed hard,” Boland said. “That’s really what you can ask in the first weekend of play, controlling what you can. We have a long ways to go in terms of each individual’s game and development throughout the course of the season. But I like where we’re at. And we’ve really come together well as a team and now it’s just taking every day as an opportunity and, you know, trying to get better from a competitive standpoint. I couldn’t be more happy, more pleased.”
Baylor will face Gonzaga at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. A win would place them in the championship match at 3 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the match between Louisville and New Mexico. A consolation match is scheduled between the two losing teams of Saturday’s matches at 11 a.m. Sunday.