Nakashima Soars Through In Tokyo

Tiafoe maintains strong form

Fresh off clinching his first ATP Tour title last month in San Diego, Brandon Nakashima continued his winning ways on Monday in his debut at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

The American, whose father is of Japanese descent, defeated Japanese wild card Shintaro Mochizuki 6-3, 6-2 in the first round at the Tokyo ATP 500 event.

"It's my first time in Japan so I'm still learning a lot about it, but it's very exciting. It's beautiful so far," Nakashima said in his post-match interview. "My dad's side of the family is Japanese. That's where I get my last name from. Any time I get to learn more about my background I'm super excited, so I'm happy to be here.

"The atmosphere is really amazing. I feel right at home."

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The 19-year-old Mochizuki made a strong start in his Tokyo debut, seeking his first tour-level win, but Nakashima pulled away by winning nine of the final 11 games from 3-3 in the opening set. Nakashima did not face a break point in the contest and won 84 per cent (21/25) of his first-serve points.

"Any time I'm serving well, it affects all the other parts of my game," said Nakashima. "I'm happy that I served well today."

The 21-year-old is full of confidence after his San Diego triumph, and was pleased with how his game translated to the Tokyo conditions.

"It was definitely one of my goals at the beginning of the year, to win my first ATP title," he said. "To do it in my hometown was super special.

"Coming here, it's pretty far away from where I last played and I'm still kind of getting used to the conditions out here and everything. But I'm happy with my level today and hopefully I'll be able to have a really good week here."

Nakashima will face either ninth seed Borna Coric or Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, with the pair set to meet on Tuesday afternoon. The American is currently sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan as he aims to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the second consecutive year.

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Mochizuki, who was playing in his sixth tour-level match overall and his third ATP Tour event of 2022, enjoyed the experience in front of his home crowd despite the defeat.

"The last tournament I played in Japan was when I was 12 or 13, so it's been five or six years since I played here. It was very nice," he said.

"It's amazing that a lot of people are supporting me. I don't experience that very often with my level now, so obviously it's unbelievable and I really want to play next year again... Off-court it's very comfortable staying in Japan. I know everything. I love Japanese food."

Frances Tiafoe continued his strong form to reach the second round at the ATP 500 event, overcoming Japanese wild card Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-4.

The American, who is making his second appearance in Tokyo, fired eight aces and saved both break points he faced to advance after 74 minutes. The 24-year-old has now won seven of his past nine matches, after enjoying a run to the semi-finals at the US Open last month.

Tiafoe will next play Bernabe Zapata Miralles after the Spaniard downed Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-5, 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes.

In Monday's opening match, Pedro Martinez downed Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 6-4. With the victory, the Spaniard snapped an eight-match losing streak across all levels, including six tour-level defeats. He awaits the winner of top seed Casper Ruud's Tuesday meeting with Jaume Munar.

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