MELBOURNE, Australia — American players continued their early run of surprises in the Australian Open on Thursday, when Jenson Brooksby eliminated men’s No. 2 seed Casper Ruud, and Katie Volynets stunned No. 9-seeded Veronika Kudermetova on the women’s side.
Brooksby, 22, of Sacramento, scored a 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 upset of Rudd in their second-round match at Rod Laver Arena, meaning a pair of 20-something Californians have knocked out the top two players in the men’s bracket.
Brooksby’s surprise came in the same round and on the same court that 27-year-old Mackenzie McDonald defeated No. 1 seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain on Wednesday. That makes this the first Grand Slam tournament since the 2002 Australian Open that the Nos. 1-2 seeds lost before the end of the second round.
Volynets, a 21-year-old qualifier from Walnut Creek, California, held on for a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 upset of Kudermetova of Russia.
With the victories of Brooksby and Volynets, there are 13 American men and women into 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 supposed to enter a year ago but came down with COVID-19 the day before he was scheduled to fly to Australia.
“Hopefully, this is the first of many, many good years here to come,” Brooksby said.
Ruud was the runner-up at the French Open to Nadal in June and at the US Open to Carlos Alcaraz in September.
Brooksby’s unusual playing style, including his two-handed backhand volleys, and ability to track down opponent’s shots were trouble for Ruud, who took a medical timeout after the second set.
The biggest problem for Brooksby was closing this one out. He held a trio of match points while trying to serve out the victory at 5-3 in the third set but could not cash in on any of them.
After he got broken there by missing a backhand, Brooksby sat down in his changeover seat and yelled at himself: “How?! How?! God!”
Ruud, a 24-year-old Norwegian player, raced through the end of that set, but Brooksby righted himself in the fourth, jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
Brooksby finished things off 1 hour, 15 minutes after his first chance.
“I was getting a little more frustrated out there that I didn’t close it out, and my mentality was changing a little bit,” he said. “Those are the situations you have to handle sometimes in matches, and you’re going to face. I think the biggest question is: How do you respond? I just told myself to reset.”
Brooksby’s performance continued the run of strong play by men from the United States during Week 1, a significant development given that none has won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.
By reaching the third round, Brooksby joins countrymen Michael Mmoh, Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul and JJ Wolf, who also won Thursday, along with McDonald, No. 16 Frances Tiafoe and No. 29 Sebastian Korda, who all triumphed Wednesday.
Still, the eight men from the United States remaining are the most into the third round in Australia since the same number did it in 1996.
Mmoh, who lost in qualifying but got into the main draw when another player withdrew, made it this far at a major tournament for the first time by defeating No. 12 Alexander Zverev 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-3 , 6-2.
“Life is crazy. Right when you think everything is looking dim, everything is looking dark, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” the 107th-ranked Mmoh said. “My week is proof of that.”
Shelton beat qualifier Nicolas Jarry of Chile 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), 7-5; Paul came back to edge No. 30 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 6-2, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4; and Wolf breezed past No. 23 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
“A lot of Americans doing really well right now, and we’re all pushing each other,” said Brooksby, who now will face Paul. “Just looking forward to the next one.”
Volynets reached the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time with her upset of Kudermetova.
“I literally have the chills because the fans here are just incredible,” Volynets said. “I’ve never played in a stadium this packed and with that many people keeping the energy up for me. It was awesome.”
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, meanwhile, improved her winning streak to six as she beat American player Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round.
The No. 5-seeded Sabalenka, who began the year by winning the title in Adelaide, trailed 3-1 early in the match but won five straight games to take the opening set, and she then eased through the second.
“I expected a great level from her today; that’s why I stayed focused from the beginning to the end,” Sabalenka said.
Sabalenka will play either Elise Mertens of Belgium, the No. 26-seeded player, or American player Lauren Davis in the third round.
No. 19 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia defeated American player Taylor Townsend 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.