MELBOURNE, Australia — American players continued their early surprise streak at the Australian Open on Thursday when Jenson Brooksby eliminated Casper Ruud, No. 2 in the men’s No. 2 and Katie Volynet’s No. 9 Veronika Kudermetova stunned in the women’s.
Brooksby, 22, of Sacramento, pulled off a 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2 win over Rudd in their second-round game at Rod Laver Arena, meaning a pair of Californians around 20 knocked out the top two men’s players.
Brooksby’s surprise came in the same round and on the same court when 27-year-old Mackenzie McDonald defeated No. 1 seeded champion Rafael Nadal of Spain on Wednesday. This is the first Grand Slam tournament since the 2002 Australian Open that the numbers 1-2 have lost before the end of the second round.
Volynets, a 21-year-old qualifier from Walnut Creek, California, held off Russia’s Kudermetova 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
With Brooksby and Volynets victories, 13 American men and women are through to the third round, the most at the Australian Open since 2004, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Brooksby is ranked 39th and making his Australian Open debut. He was due to enter a year ago but fell ill with COVID-19 the day before his scheduled flight to Australia.
“Hopefully this is the first of many, many good years to come,” Brooksby said.
Ruud was runner-up at the French Open against Nadal in June and at the US Open against Carlos Alcaraz in September.
Brooksby’s unusual style of play, including his two-handed backhand volleys, and his ability to spot his opponent’s shots caused problems for Ruud, who took a medical time-out after the second set.
The biggest problem for Brooksby was closing it down. He held a trio of match points while trying to serve the win 5-3 in the decider, but couldn’t cash any of them.
After getting busted there by a missed backhand, Brooksby sat in his swap seat and yelled at himself, “How?! How?! God!
Ruud, a 24-year-old Norwegian, sped to the end of that set but Brooksby bounced back up in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead.
Brooksby finished 1 hour and 15 minutes after his first chance.
“I got a little more frustrated out there for not completing it, and my mentality changed a bit,” he said. “These are the situations that sometimes you have to deal with in games and you have to face them. I think the biggest question is: how do you react? I just told myself to reset.”
Brooksby’s performance continued the streak of strong players from the United States in Week 1, a significant development considering no one has won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.
In reaching the third round, Brooksby joins compatriots Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul and JJ Wolf, who also won on Thursday, along with McDonald, No. 16 Frances Tiafoe and No. 29 Sebastian Korda, who all triumphed on Wednesday.
Shelton defeated qualifier Nicolas Jarry of Chile 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 7-5; Paul came back on number 30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 6-2 2-6 6-7(4) 6-3 6-4; and Wolf blew past No. 23 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-1 6-4 6-4.
“A lot of Americans are doing really well right now and we’re all pushing each other,” said Brooksby, who will now face Paul. “I’m just looking forward to the next one.”
Volynets reached the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time with her irritation against Kudermetova.
“I literally have goosebumps because the fans here are just amazing,” Volynets said. “I’ve never played in a packed stadium with so many people keeping the energy up for me. It was fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus extended her winning streak to six when she defeated American Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the third round.
5-seeded Sabalenka, who started the year by winning the title in Adelaide, was 3-1 down early in the game but won five games in a row to win the first set and she then made it through the second .
“I expected a great level from her today, so I stayed focused from start to finish,” said Sabalenka.
Sabalenka will face either Belgium’s Elise Mertens, the No. 26 seed, or America’s Lauren Davis in the third round.
Number 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia defeated American Taylor Townsend 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.