Nakashima Sets Lehecka Showdown In Milan
Brandon Nakashima maintained his perfect record at this year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals Friday when he moved past Briton Jack Draper 4-3(6), 1-4, 4-2, 4-3(5) to reach the final in Milan.
The American went 3-0 in the round-robin stage and produced another ruthless performance at the Allianz Cloud to earn his 34th tour-level win of the season. The fourth seed fired his watertight backhand with fierce power, while he opened his shoulders to take large cuts on his forehand in a heavy-hitting clash that entertained the packed crowd.
“It was very high quality from both of us the whole match,” Nakashima said. “I was fighting for every point and I was happy to close it out at the end. We have both had a great year and both had great wins against top players. I knew it was going to be a tough match, he has a great lefty serve. I knew I had to be quick on my feet. I am happy I played well.”
The 21-year-old blasted 29 winners on the fast-paced court and rallied from 2-5 in the fourth-set tie-break, converting on his second match point to advance after one hour and 38 minutes. He will face Jiri Lehecka in the final after the Czech defeated Dominic Stricker 4-1, 4-3(4), 2-4, 4-1.
Nakashima is making his second appearance in Milan, having fallen at the semi-final stage last year. Earlier this week, the World No. 49 downed Matteo Arnaldi, Lehecka and Francesco Passaro to top the Green Group.
“I have a lot of confidence in my game right now,” Nakashima said. “Tomorrow it is going to be a new match. I am going to try and forget about our match a couple of days ago. Jiri has been playing great all week, so I am sure it is going to be a tough one.”
Nakashima has enjoyed an impressive season, highlighted by his maiden title run on home soil in San Diego in September. The 21-year-old also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at Roland Garros and the US Open.
Draper started the season at No. 265 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings but competed in Milan at No. 41 after a breakthrough year. The British lefty, who went 2-1 in the Red Group, defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Montreal, while he won four ATP Challenger Tour crowns.