In what was thought to be an easy night for Novak Djokovic turned into a nightmare for the Serb for the first hour. Upstart 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby pushed Djokovic hard for the first two sets before running out of steam as the 20-time Slam winner prevailed 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in three hours.
“I think great quality match. He started off better,” said Djokovic. “I’ve never played him. I didn’t see him play too many times. Maybe few matches in the last few months. Haven’t followed his career prior to that, so I didn’t know much about him.”
Brooksby, who uses his speed and guile over power, kept enough balls coming back to annoy the error prone Djokovic early on. The World No. 1 finished the first set with 11 unforced errors and eight winners while Brooksby had just one unforced to five winners.
Djokovic would break early in the second but Brooksby fought back winning an epic 24-point fifth game for 2-3. Djokovic, though, immediately broke and it seemed like the air left the Brooksby balloon.
“He’s a young, talented player that is very crafty,” Djokovic added. “He’s got the really all-around game. He was pumped. He had the crowd behind him, of course. He played a perfect first set. Everything he intended to do he executed it perfectly.
“On my end, I was just trying to find a rhythm, trying to read his game, trying to understand where I can find holes in his game and start to attack and shift the momentum to my side.
“That happened already at the beginning of the second set. I broke him early. He broke back. But I re-broke his serve right away. We had some very, very long rallies, long games. It took a toll physically I think on both of us at that point. But I managed to find the right serves. I served efficiently when I needed to, opening up the court.”
Djokovic talked about playing the youngster.
“Brooksby reminds me of (Florian Mayer) a lot. But I think he’s a better mover than Mayer,” assessed Djokovic. “He’s young. He’s 20. He’s got plenty of time. He showed also I think mental maturity on the court. Stepped in, and considering the circumstances, his first Arthur Ashe Stadium match, against me, night session, I think he managed himself very well. He was motivated and did his best. I have to congratulate him and say that I was impressed with his game but also with his behavior.”
Just 20 and a wildcard, Brooksby could have quite the future in front of him, and early on he executed his secret plan to near perfection.
“I can’t really say too much,” Brooksby said. “But I did do it from the start and I could see it working. I really did have a lot of confidence in myself out there that I can beat him, I can beat anybody.
“I started out strong today. I believe from the start, just like any other match, I came out strong, came out with my right strategy. It’s tough how it faded after later in the second set, into the rest of the match.
“Also credit to Novak for stepping it up, too.”
Djokovic moves on to a Wednesday night meeting with Matteo Berrettini in a rematch of their Wimbledon final.
“Hammer of tennis,” Djokovic said of the Italian. “Next to del Potro, probably the hardest hitter of serve and forehand. He’s got the lethal-serve-plus-one game. He’s already established as a top player. Without a doubt, he played a couple of I think semifinals here couple years ago, finals in Wimbledon. That was a tough four-setter.
“Look, if he serves well, which is his biggest weapon, he’s tough. He’s tough on any surface to play against. I’ve had some really close matches with him in French Open and Wimbledon recently.”
Berrettini dropped the second then benefited from an Oscar Otte fourth set wrist-injuring tumble to secure a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the qualifier.
Alexander Zverev won his 15th straight, saving four set points in the third to upend Jannick Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(7).
“I think it was a pretty high-level match, to be honest,” Zverev said. “I think the winner and unforced error ratio was not like the other matches, not as good as the other matches, but it was also very difficult because both of us are playing extremely fast. All in all I played one bad game in the third set and that almost cost me a set, and that shows how high I think both players were playing.”
Next will be South African Lloyd Harris who stunned Reilly Opelka 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. Harris, who upset Rafael Nadal in Washington, broke Opelka six times to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“Obviously I’m super happy to get through that first match, first fourth round for me today,” said Harris. “It was a really tough match. Reilly is always going to come with a lot of big serves, that’s for sure.
“I think I handled it well after going down that first set. I held my composure. I served really well throughout the match. All in all, I’m just very, very pleased and very relieved after that performance.”
Opelka was out-aced 36 to 24.
“I don’t think I served my best,” said Opelka. I actually served poorly, to be honest. He served great. He was the better server. Then with me not serving at a high percentage of first serves, he’s going to put a lot of balls in play, and just changes the whole dynamic of the match when I’m not serving great.
“That’s kind of what makes me so difficult and it really was off. Usually I can manage it better and make some adjustments throughout the match, which I was trying, but a little out of character for me to serve that poorly throughout the whole match, but he served great.”
Tomorrow, the quarterfinals kick into gear with Daniil Medvedev looking keep his roll going against qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp.
In the evening, the young guys get center stage as Carlos Alcaraz returns to Ashe to meet Felix Auger-Aliassime.
MONDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium, Day Session – 12:00 PM Start
Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) (Q) vs. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 
Elina Svitolina (UKR)  vs. Leylah Fernandez (CAN)
Arthur Ashe Stadium, Night Session – 7:00 PM Start
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE)  vs. Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)  vs. Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)
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