Home, Sweet Home: Nakashima To Play For First ATP Title in San Diego
Home is feeling especially sweet this week for Brandon Nakashima.
The local favourite defeated Australian Christopher O'Connell 6-4, 7-6(3) on Saturday to reach the final of the San Diego Open. The 21-year-old will play fellow American Marcos Giron on Sunday, when the winner will lift his first ATP Tour trophy.
"It feels amazing. It's the first final that I've made this year and no better place to do it than in my hometown San Diego," Nakashima said. "I'm really excited about it. Obviously I've had a great week. I feel confident with my game right now and I'm looking forward to [the final] tomorrow."
Nakashima showed no nerves at his home tournament with the pressure of trying to advance to his maiden tour-level final of the season, and his third overall. The fifth seed saved the two break points he faced to triumph after one hour and 51 minutes.
"Going into it I knew I had to serve well. That affects the rest of my game off the ground and my returns a little bit, too," Nakashima said. "I just tried to stay focussed one point at the time, tried to make as many first serves as possible and tried to be aggressive off the first ball, so I think I did that pretty well today."
The San Diego native is also solidifying his position in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan this week. Nakashima is in sixth place, and with a win on Sunday he will claw to within 83 points of fifth-placed Jack Draper as he tries to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the second consecutive year.
Nakashima will have the championship-match experience edge against Giron, who reached his first ATP Tour final in style. The American upset top seed Daniel Evans 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 46 minutes.
"It feels great. I played twice and he'd beaten me twice, so I knew it was going to be a hell of a tough match, but I'm really happy with the way I played under pressure. That's kind of why I'm here," Giron said. "I got to this point because yesterday I saved multiple break points, I was down set points and the day before there were times I could have easily gone down, but I've been playing well under pressure and I keep doing that."
Giron, who underwent right hip surgery in 2015 and left hip surgery in 2016, is now one victory from tour-level glory. The 29-year-old saved all three break points he faced against Evans to earn the opportunity.
In a battle between two players who enjoy long points at the back of the court, Giron was the more aggressive competitor. He also hit 11 aces and won 80 per cent of his first-serve points, while showing a willingness to finish rallies at the net.
Did You Know?
The San Diego Open championship clash will be the fourth all-American ATP Tour final this season and sixth all-countrymen final in 2022. The winner will be the fourth different American to lift an ATP Tour trophy this year (Fritz-2, Opelka-2, Cressy).