© Peter Staples/Citi Open

Brandon Nakashima defeats Daniel Evans in straight sets to advance to the third round in Washington.

The Nakashima Train Continues To Roll In Washington

The #NextGenATP American will next play countryman Kudla

The Brandon Nakashima train keeps rolling, and the 20-year-old put that on full display Wednesday at the Citi Open in a 7-6(1), 6-0 victory against sixth seed Daniel Evans.

The #NextGenATP American has now won 10 of his past 12 tour-level matches dating back to the start of his run at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos. Before that, he had not earned a victory at this level since last year's US Open.

Nakashima made back-to-back finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta — marking his first two championship matches on the ATP Tour — and his confidence is showing in Washington. The Californian has not lost a set through two matches at the ATP 500, and he converted four of his five break points against Evans.

"It definitely feels great right now. Having all this confidence from playing all these matches, going deep in tournaments has been good for me," Nakashima said. "I'm sure every player would want to have this feeling right now of playing well and winning all these matches. I'm just trying to embrace it as much as possible."

Evans is a gritty competitor, who reached a career-high No. 25 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in June. The 31-year-old trailed by a break late in the first set and saved a set point en route to a tie-break. But in the critical moments, Nakashima hit back-to-back screaming passing shots to seize control. The former University of Virginia player then took the opener and never looked back.

"I think he's got obviously a very big future. He seems very calm and levelheaded, which is a good thing. He played good today. He put me away pretty convincingly in the end," said Evans, who missed the Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19. "He's going to be a good player."

Nakashima will next play countryman Denis Kudla, who is from the area. The World No. 103 upset 10th seed Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2 behind five service breaks.

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Fellow American Reilly Opelka also advanced with a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over Daniel Elahi Galan. Opelka fired nine aces and saved all five break points he faced – including four set points in the tense opening set as the Colombian applied the pressure at 5-4 and 6-5. Opelka, who won 83 per cent (39/47) of first-serve points, will next face John Millman, who defeated Elias Ymer 6-2, 7-6(8).

“I didn't serve my best today, especially in the second set. I did a good job of mixing up the speed of my second serve, mixing up the depth of it,” Opelka said. “I played real well from the baseline, hit my forehand great, volleyed well. I had a lot of things going in my favor just outside my serve today which made it more difficult for him to break me.

“But I think my first-serve percentage needs to increase, especially my next match against a good returner like John Millman.”

Did You Know?
Nakashima celebrated his 20th birthday Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory against Australian Alexei Popyrin.

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