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Ruusuvuori, Brooksby Wins Among Biggest ATP Tour Upsets Of 2021

Continuing our review of the 2021 season, today looks at three of the top five upsets of the year at ATP Tour events. We’ll review the top two tomorrow. On Friday and Saturday, we’ll look at the biggest upsets at majors in 2021.

5) Miami Open presented by Itau, Second Round, Emil Ruusuvuori d. Alexander Zverev 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
As tournament debuts go, they don’t get much better than Emil Ruusuvuori’s at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

The Finn had edged past #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in his first-round match to set up a clash against the in-form Alexander Zverev, who had just won the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC title.

Prior to the match, World No. 83 Ruusuvuori had earned just one Top 10 victory in his career, with that coming against Dominic Thiem in Davis Cup play in 2019. The task of facing then-World No. 7 Alexander Zverev looked to be a daunting one, and it proved that way in the opening stages.

Zverev made a fast start, racing ahead to clinch the opener as his powerful ball striking forced Ruusuvuori into errors. However, with the pressure off, the 22-year-old remained calm and changed up tactics to impose himself on the match.

In the second set, Ruusuvuori varied his game plan and took the ball early, increasingly moving forward to finish points at the net when given the opportunity. Ruusuvuori broke Zverev four times in the set to level, before he maintained this tactic in the decider to shock the 19-time tour-level titlist after two hours and five minutes for his biggest career win.

“I don’t even know myself [how I turned this match around],” Ruusuvuori said in his on-court interview. “I wasn’t feeling very comfortable in the first set and I was making a lot of unforced errors. But slowly in the second I was starting to feel a bit better…

“Of course, it’s one of the biggest wins in my career, so it feels good.”

It was the first time Ruusuvuori reached the third round at a tour-level event this season and just the second time he had made the third round at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament. The 22-year-old would go on to overcome Swede Mikael Ymer in the third round, before falling to Jannik Sinner.

4) MercedesCup, Second Round, Dominik Stricker d. Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(5), 7-6(5)
Dominic Stricker began the season No. 1,168 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Following his triumph at an ATP Challenger Tour event and a run to the quarter-finals at the Gonet Geneva Open on his tour-level debut, the 18-year-old was up to No. 335 when the MercedesCup rolled around in June.

Stricker had received a wild card for the grass-court ATP 250 event and made the most of it with a tight victory against Radu Albot in the first round. The reward for the Swiss youngster was a second-round match against Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz, who would go on to to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon and play at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin in 2021.

For Stricker, this was where his journey was supposed to end, with Hurkacz the second seed and the World No. 20. However, the 18-year-old clearly didn’t read the script as he produced the best performance of his season to shock the Pole.

Stricker was strong on serve, hitting eight aces and winning 81 per cent (46/57) of his first-serve points to frustrate Hurkacz, with both sets going to tie-breaks.

The more experienced Hurkacz was unable to find a way through as Stricker raised his level in both tie-breaks to upset the 24-year-old and reach the quarter-finals in emphatic style.

3) Citi Open, Third Round, Jenson Brooksby d. Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-4
Jenson Brooksby was voted the Newcomer of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards last week, and it was down to his stunning performances this season such as his victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Citi Open.

The 21-year-old was making his ATP 500 tournament debut in Washington and was looking to build on his run to his first tour-level final in Newport the previous month. But he knew the challenge would be difficult, with a strong field packed with Top 20 stars.

While Brooksby’s run to the final in Newport was impressive, the American did not beat anyone inside the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings and was playing on slick grass, a surface that suits his unorthodox game.

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The challenge facing the World No. 130 in Washington was seemingly far greater, with Auger-Aliassime No. 15 and in strong form, having recently reached his first major quarter-final at Wimbledon.

However, it was hard to tell who was the rookie was and who was the eight-time tour-level finalist. Brooksby produced a fearless display in front of a lively home crowd to shock the Canadian and earn the biggest win of his career.

The wild card had already scored impressive victories over former World No. 5 Kevin Anderson and countryman Frances Tiafoe en route to the third round, but he upped his level again, causing Auger-Aliassime problems with his variety and solid baseline tennis.

The American made few unforced errors, and by altering the pace of rallies with his deadly drop shot and surprise direction changes, Brooksby prevented the powerful Canadian from controlling play to claim victory after 85 minutes.

“I have definitely gotten mentally tougher this year, and it’s only kept improving. I just really love, truly love playing on these stages,” Brooksby said. “No opponent will faze me. I can compete with anyone. This was definitely a very good match today for me.

“I stayed really focussed throughout. I didn’t really have any lapses in my strategy or mentally. I’m happy with that match.”

Brooksby would go on to defeat John Millman in the quarter-finals, before he lost to eventual champion Jannik Sinner in the last four. The American’s victory against Auger-Aliassime fuelled him with further belief as he went on to reach the fourth round at the US Open in September.

Read more of the Best Of 2021

Source Tennis – ATP World Tour

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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