t’s 6 AM in California, and I could lock in some measured takes and in-depth analysis from a superb day of tennis in the desert. The storylines were endless. Rafa won his 400th career Masters 1000 match, Jenson Brooksby nabbed his first Top 5 win, and Carlos Alcaraz may have ended RBA’s career. I could summarize it all with context and nuance, but I would much rather hyperbolize and overreact as my latte kicks in, because yesterday was just a fucking blast. What Brooksby, Opelka, and Alcaraz did yesterday is illegal in many parts of the world.
Did Alcaraz end RBA’s career?
No, but I’ll never forget a story from my friend and two time Georgia Bulldog All-American tennis player Austin Smith. Smith was traveling around grinding the ITF circuit. He was making slow and steady progress, won an ITF title, and was feeling decent about his professional prospects. That is until he faced a promising 16-year-old Canadian prospect with a double-barreled last name. The Canadian beat my friend 6-2, 6-1, and after the match, on the drive home, he realized pro tennis might not be for him.
“I think it was the Birmingham futures, I drew Felix first round,” Smith said. “I was fresh off a title in Israel and feeling pretty good. But for the first time in my life I felt like my forehand was not good enough to win that match no matter how well I hit it. He was like 16 and I was 22. He had a more complete and finely tuned game than me with six less years of maturity. That match really made me question if I was doing the right thing trying to play on tour. Seeing him Top 10 today makes me feel a lot better.”
So no, Carlitos did not end RBA’s career. RBA will probably die on a tennis court, still hitting his Eastern grip forehand on a dime. But I guarantee that RBA thought long and hard about his future in the sport after suffering arguably the most comprehensive beatdown of his career. I’ve seen hundreds of RBA matches, and he’s never looked that helpless on a tennis court. RBA is a legend, but that one had to sting. If that was a boxing match, they would have stopped the fight after the first round.
Jenson Brooksby owns Stef’s Man Card
“Man Card” is probably an inappropriate and outdated term, but that doesn’t change the fact that Stefanos Tsitsipas handed his to Jenson Brooksby last night. These hard court conditions are tailor-made for the Greek. He has ample time on his backhand side, and can find his forehand pretty much whenever he wants. His serve, forehand, net-game, movement, quickness, pedigree, big-match experience, etc.. are all superior to the American’s.
But towards the end of the third set, the two were engaged in a phenomenal game. If you were just listening to the match in the background, you’d have thought they were locked at 4-4, exchanging loud “CMON’s” after every point. Not so. Tsitsipas was fighting to save himself from utter humiliation, while Brooksby was fighting for a complete and total emasculation, as he earned seven break point chances to serve for a third-set bagel. Brooksby ultimately won 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. To make matters worse, after the match, Tsitsipas blamed his loss on Brooksby’s ability to hit the net cord. What a loser.
"He's not a very explosive player,” said Tsitsipas, “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, play with his pace, play with the opponent's pace. He's able to read the game well and stay consistent. There's nothing that he has that kills, I would say.”
That's a funny quote to hear from a dead man.
The Best Kickserve Ever
Down 1-4 in the first-set tiebreak, Reilly Opelka sounded off on a Shapovalov supporter chirping him from the front row.
“How old are you?” Opelka asked the heckler. “You’re not a teenager, you’re a grown ass man.. are you serious?”
Opelka could have EASILY had that fan ejected from the arena. The ref was aware of the fan’s chirping and promised to deal with it. But instead of Opelka throwing the fan out, he decided to torture him. After breaking Shapovalov in the second set, Opelka turned toward the fan and shouted “THAT’S RIGHT MOTHERFUCKER!!”
Up 3-2, 40-0 in the third set, Opelka hit the greatest kick serve of all time. Unlike the rest of the article, this is not hyperbole.
Shapovalov was 20 feet behind the baseline, knew the kick was coming, and it still bounced over his long outstretched left arm. After the match, Opelka ran toward the heckler, smiling, and gently tapped him a game ball. The American men were drinking blood yesterday.