Opponents might be unable to say what makes Brooksby so tough, but they know he is. And now, more brands are latching onto the ascendant star.
When Stefanos Tsitsipas entered the press room at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden following his third-round loss to Jenson Brooksby back in March, he was out of answers.
“The amount of net cords he hit to bring it on the other side of the court…I think that’s an incredible skill,” he said.
When asked what made Brooksby a tough opponent, he paused to think for seven seconds.
“He’s not a very explosive player, but he’s able to get balls back. He’s not the most athletic player as well. He’s just able to read the game well and play with the opponent’s pace,” he explained. “There’s nothing he has that kills.”
This is a sentiment that many tennis players and fans share. How is this 21-year-old kid, with a first serve barely over 100 mph, dismantling some of the best players in the world and rising up the ranks? How did he take out the No. 5 player in the world at a Masters 1000? How did he take a set off of Novak Djokovic at the US Open, forcing one of the greatest players of all-time to make adjustments and dig deep for a fourth-round win at a Grand Slam?
The Brooksby Rise
Jenson Brooksby is an enigma. Hailing from the United States — a country that develops players on hardcourts with a big serve and a powerful forehand — he does things completely differently than foreign-born players. The American has anticipation you can’t teach, which, coupled with a relentless competitive spirit and above-average speed, makes for an incredibly annoying opponent. His court sense is incredible, and his mind never stops problem-solving in real time. Above all else, he has no discernible weaknesses, rarely giving the opponent anything to work with.
While he was somewhat overlooked as a junior due to his lack of weapons, Brooksby has done nothing but win since beginning his tennis career, forcing the world to pay attention.
He defeated fellow countryman Brandon Nakashima in the 2018 USTA Boys’ National Championships in Kalamazoo to become the best 18-year-old in the country. A year later, he won three consecutive matches to qualify for the US Open, defeating former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych in the first round.
After a 15-month injury layoff during the 2020 season, he returned in 2021 to win three tournaments at the ATP Challenger level, reaching the final in one more. He parlayed that into a trip to the final in Newport in what was essentially his debut on the ATP level, and after an impressive run to the semifinals in Washington, D.C., he rose into the top 100 in the world, becoming a mainstay in the main draws.
The Brooksby Brand
All Jenson Brooksby did in 2021 was win, and in many ways, he had no choice. Without a flashy game, loud personality or easily identifiable weapon, he wasn’t a young player that sponsors were initially chasing. The only way to gain more visibility was to climb the rankings and put himself into big matches against household names.
While Nakashima was pursued by FILA and compatriot Sebastian Korda, who is roughly the same age, inked a deal with Adidas, Brooksby wasn’t showing up on brand radars, even with his success in the juniors. When the success came at the lower levels, Brooksby was initially passed up for a wild-card entry into Atlanta and D.C. in 2021.
“He was winning Challengers, he made four straight finals, won back-to-back on hard and clay, and still no one was really seeing it,” his advisor, Amrit Narasimhan, told Boardroom.
Despite the lack of widespread interest, there were two companies that got in on the ground floor with Brooksby prior to his meteoric rise. There was Solinco, whose strings he had used since his childhood. He inked a deal to put their logo inside of his Wilson racquet frame.
The other was Uomo Sport, a clothing brand founded by former tennis player Steven Siebert, which aimed to bring a different look to the court in the form of tight-fitting polos and shorts that don’t feature the loud, flashy colors you’re used to seeing on most players.
It’s a company that doesn’t tout many ambassadors, Brooksby is one of just four active players wearing Uomo on-court, and he’s not only the lone top-50 player wearing the brand, he’s the only one in the top 250. Uomo has also signed deals with former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, longtime coach on tour Brad Stine, and a select few others.
Narasimhan, who knew Siebert, identified this partnership as an ideal fit for both parties. After all, Brooksby is from Sacramento, California, and the company is based in Malibu.
“I was like, Steven, trust me. Get this kid. You will not regret it,” he said.
They sure didn’t.
What came next was the US Open, where Brooksby cemented his status as one of the top American men on tour. He earned a hard-fought four-set victory over the talented Mikael Ymer in the first round, then took out top-ranked American Taylor Fritz in another four-set battle before earning a spot in the fourth-round with an epic five-set victory over that year’s Australian Open semifinalist, Aslan Karatsev.
Then, it was Brooksby’s turn inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, where much changed for him. Donning Uomo, he dismantled Djokovic — the No. 1 player in the world, who had won the year’s first three Grand Slams — in the first set. He thrilled the crowd by earning points with epic rallies and incredible defense, bringing them to their feet with a 6-1 victory in the first.
Though Brooksby eventually lost the match, his run won him the eyes of more brands.
Prior to the tournament, his team was in talks with Danish eyewear company Christopher Cloos, which has launched a line of sunglasses with Tom Brady, its lone ambassador in the sports world. The company’s CEO flew into New York to watch Brooksby take on Djokovic, and the next morning, the two sides agreed on a multi-year endorsement deal.
Winning the Waiting Game
There was a balance to find between striking before the iron was hot and after it had begun to cool down, and considering how many companies came knocking after the US Open, it seems Brooksby and his team made the right decision.
“It was good to wait like we did, until I got good results,” Brooksby told Boardroom.
“Early on in 2021, I’m just starting out, I’ve been injured the whole year, it was nice to get a couple of sponsors at the time just because I needed the money,” he continued. “It’s different for everyone, but for me, you need to have the right belief in yourself and realistic expectations for where you think you can reach. Because you wouldn’t want to find all of your sponsors when you’re lower [in the rankings] just for a little bit of money when you believe you can get up higher and miss out on much more money or opportunities.”
On the court, Brooksby would ink a deal to become the proverbial face of Wilson’s new line of tennis shoes. He signed deals with Motorola, Royal Bank of Canada, and Optimus, whose logos he sports on the sleeves of his shirt. He wears Swiss watchmaker Gerald Charles – a company which bases its designs off the legendary Gerald Genta — on his wrist during and after his matches.
The deals have come fast for Brooksby, but his portfolio is unlike anyone else’s. While there are bigger brands which frequently sign top-ranked tennis players to deals, the rising young American’s endorsements have all been inked with an eye to the future. Now that he’s shown his potential and convinced companies he is worth investing in, he is in position to select companies that match his drive and that he and his team think have a bright future.
“They have that hunger to get up there, and so do I,” Brooksby said. “It’s cool to be the lead role in showcasing a brand.
“I want to have the image of working hard, and earning your way up to the top. That does reflect with my sponsors.”
As motivated as he is to win on the court, Brooksby and his team have been equally relentless off of it. Hard work is all Brooksby has known his whole life, as a kid who had a late growth spurt, wasn’t initially a blue-chip tennis prospect and who lacked a big, eye-catching weapon in his game. That’s what makes his play style so captivating, because it’s true to who he’s always been.
The way things are shaping up, Jenson Brooksby could become the first American since Andy Roddick to truly connect with corporate America. He’s already beaten the likes of Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka and John Isner in just 13 months at tour level and is very much in the conversation to become the top-ranked American man in the coming years.