[EXCLUSIVE] Brandon Nakashima: “I Love Federer, But My Game Resembles More Djokovic’s” - UBITENNIS
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[EXCLUSIVE] Brandon Nakashima: “I Love Federer, But My Game Resembles More Djokovic’s”

Nakashima speaks to UbiTennis about his liveliest memory of training with Nadal at Wimbledon. The duels he had with Lorenzo Musetti and Tseng Chun-Hsin, the high praise for Sebastian Korda and Hugo Gaston. Why he doesn’t like clubbing and what his new coach Pat Cash has been advising him to do.

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The latest instalment of UbiTennis’ video series sees Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink speak with Brandon Nakashima. An 18-year-old American tennis star born on August 3, 2001, who goes by the nickname B-Nak.

 

He is at No.220 in the ATP Rankings (with a career best at 218) and is second-best among those who were born in 2001, trailing only Jannik Sinner. His surname is of Japanese origin, but it was his Vietnamese maternal grandfather who initiated him to the game of tennis when he was three. He is 1.85 metres tall and weighs 78 kilograms. He was born in San Diego, and his father Wesley was also born in California – his parents are both pharmacists. He played for the University of Virginia, where he was the Freshman of the Year for the Atlantic Coast Conference, before moving on to the pros.

Since Delray Beach, in February, he’s been working with Pat Cash, immediately reaching the quarter finals and beating four Top 100 players. His best shot is his two-handed backhand, and his favourite player is Federer. A superb athlete, he is considered the best American prospect. He is self-described as shy, but he actually isn’t that much, once he gets going. He loves sushi, but also admits to having a sweet tooth. Given the status of some of his victims, it can be assumed that he’s already better than his ranking.

VIDEO SCHEDULE

Minute 00:00: Introduction and recap of his highest-profile wins.

03:40: His behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic: “I wear a mask whenever I’m outside. I’ve been trying to stay cautious as much as possible in public areas”. He also appreciates the chance of being able to train at some local private courts.

05:07: The special relationship with his grandfather: “My mom’s dad is from Vietnam. He first started to get me out on the court when I was about three and a half years old, just feeding me balls at a local park and from that time onward I started practicing more and more everyday”.

06:45: Bonding with his main coach, Pat Cash, during the pandemic.

07:38: Cash claims he noticed immediately Brandon’s “extraordinary racquet control” – does he think that this is his best quality too?

08:42: Their first meeting: “We had a couple of mutual friends; at the time I had just turned pro and I was looking for a good coach…”

11:53: His idols growing up: “I always liked to watch Federer play, but I think now my game is more similar to Djokovic’s”.

12:40: The experience of hitting with Nadal: “A couple of years ago I was playing the junior Wimbledon tournament…”

14:36: His thoughts on the best future prospects…

17:20: His transition as a pro aged only 17: “It was crucial on and off the court for me to go to college and to then play a full season at 17 [Editor’s Note: at the University of Virginia], it helped my game and made me mature as a person. I’d advise most players to go to college and get that experience…”

19:45: Recapping his best junior Slam results.

21:25: Developing his game with Pat Cash: “During these training blocks here in California, we definitely decided to work a lot on the transition and net game to add more variety into my game…”

23:55: What are his current plans? “It’s tough to plan tournaments right now since we don’t know when or if they’re even starting…”

25:35: How does he feel about the issue of playing behind closed doors? “It will be interesting, everybody is so used to people watching, so I think most players will find it maybe a little weird at the beginning…”

26:47: His off-court life: “I try to relax and have fun. I like playing other sports, on days off I play golf with friends or relax at home watching TV, just getting the mind away from tennis. I don’t like going to dance or clubs, it never was my type of feeling of going out; I like a more chill state with my friends.”

30:04: His knowledge of tennis history.

31:30: Where does Brandon see himself in 2022/23? “The goal is to keep improving my results and my rankings, and maybe…”

33:20: After the Big Three era, who is his pick to become the next world N.1?

36:10: Pat Cash’s most frequent tip: “I have to train to get ready for the Slams…”

Article written and translated by Tommaso Villa

ATP

John Isner upsets Andrey Rublev to reach quarterfinals in Madrid

John Isner is into the Madrid quarter-finals after a last set tiebreak win over Andrey Rublev.

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John Isner (@atptour - Twitter)

The American once again needed three sets and two tiebreakers to earn a top 10 scalp.

 

John Isner booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open by upsetting the number six seed Andrey Rublev 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and five minutes hitting 43 winners and 29 aces in the win.

“I’ve always served well, the conditions for the server are fantastic, physically I was heavy-legged today, I finished late last night, the good thing is I finished a bit earlier today and I should be ready to go tomorrow, I’m going to need all of my legs tomorrow against Dominic (Thiem) and I’m looking forward to it for sure”.

The first set was pretty routine and we didn’t see a single break of serve the entire set as the first set would be decided by a tiebreaker. That’s where the American ran away with it jumping out to a 4-0 lead playing some great tennis and he would take it 7-4 to win the first set 7-6.

The Russian was keen to get back in the match in the second set and earned the first two breakpoints of the match at 1-1 and broke to take an early 2-1 lead. That break was all the number six seed needed to serve out the second set taking it 6-3 and setting up a deciding third set.

The number six seed once again had the first break opportunity of the third set but it was immediately saved with the big booming serve from the Greensboro, North Carolina native. That was the only breakpoint of the set and once again the match would be decided by a tiebreaker.

This one was much more closer and we didn’t see a break of serve until 4-3 when the American returned the Russian serve with a powerful forehand to take a 5-3 lead.

He would go on to serve it out to win the match and set up a quarterfinal encounter with the Austrian Domenic Them and he spoke about the matchup in his post-match press conference.

“He’s fresh, he’s won two matches and I think he is the second-best clay courter right now so it’s going to be a very tough task for me tomorrow especially on this court because he hits the ball so big and pretty fast and he does so many things well and I am going to have to play extremely well if I want any chance to beat him”

Theim currently holds a 2-1 lead in the head to head and their most recent meeting was back in 2017 in Laver Cup on an indoor hardcourt when the Austrian won in three sets.

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Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Third Round and Women’s Semifinals to be Played on Thursday

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Rafael Nadal practicing in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka are one round away from meeting in their second consecutive final, after Barty defeated Sabalenka in the championship match of Stuttgart.  On Thursday, both face unseeded yet considerable opposition.  And all 16 remaining men will play their third round matches, featuring seven of the ATP’s top 10.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Thursday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Paula Badosa (WC) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

What a tournament it’s been for the 23-year-old wild card, who is the first Spanish woman to ever reach the semifinals of her country’s biggest tournament.  But this result is not a fluke: she’s now 14-6 this season, and 3-0 against top 20 players.  That includes a victory over her opponent today, who she defeated in straight sets last month on the green clay of Charleston.

In that match against Barty, Badosa saved 12 of 14 break points faced.  After the match, Badosa credited her aggressive game plan of attacking early in rallies as her key to success.  However, replicating that feat in front of a home crowd, and against an in-form world No.1, will be a tall task.  Barty is now 24-3 this season, and has claimed 16 of her last 18 deciding sets.  Ash possesses a high tennis IQ, and I expect her and her team to learn from the loss in Charleston, and figure out a way to overcome the impressive Spaniard.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Casper Ruud – Not Before 4:00pm on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium

Tsitsipas is now 10-1 on clay this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Rafael Nadal, in a championship match where he held a match point.  Meanwhile, Ruud has compiled an impressive 25-9 record on this surface since the start of last year.  And the 22-year-old is 4-1 this season on clay against top 20 opponents, with his only loss coming at the hands of Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo. 

This will be their first tour-level meeting, though they did play in 2016 at an ITF event on clay, which went to Tsitsipas in a third-set tiebreak.  Ruud is fully capable of making this another tight contest, but Stefanos has been the second best clay court player so far this season, which makes him the favorite to advance.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Sabalenka has been on a tear, winning 30 of her last 36 matches.  And she’s yet to drop a set at this event.  Pavlyuchenkova has defeated four top 25 players this fortnight to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal in over a decade.  Their only previous meeting was two years ago in Canada, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing 7-5 in the third.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Alexei Popyrin – Nadal has 392 career match wins at the Masters 1000 level.  21-year-old Popyrin only has six, though the Australian earned an impressive win on Wednesday over Jannik Sinner.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Medvedev just earned his first win on clay since April of 2019.  By contrast, Garin has earned five clay court titles since April of 2019.  Two years ago at the Rogers Cup, Medvedev defeated Garin in straight sets.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Alex de Minaur – Thiem has reached the semifinals or better of this event in his last three appearances.  De Minaur often trains in Spain, but had never won a match on clay at the Masters level before this week.  Thiem leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Dan Evans – Zverev was the champion of this event three years ago, and comfortably dispatched of Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.  Prior to Monte-Carlo last month, Evans had lost 10 consecutive matches on clay, but has now won six of his last eight.  In their only prior encounter, Evans was victorious in four sets at the 2016 US Open.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. John Isner – Since the beginning of 2020, Rublev is 66-16.  Isner is just 16-3 during that same span, though he saved a match point to prevail over Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday.  The American defeated Rublev at the 2015 Miami Open, when Rublev was only 17-years-old.

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Federico Delbonis – Berrettini won the clay event in Belgrade two weeks ago.  Delbonis’ two career titles have both come on this surface.

Aslan Karatsev vs. Alexander Bublik – Karatsev is now 19-5 in 2021, and on Wednesday came back from a set and a break down against Diego Schwartzman.  Bublik is 18-11 this season, and upset Denis Shapovalov in the last round.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Rafael Nadal Overpowers Birthday Boy Alcaraz In Madrid

Rafael Nadal was too strong for Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal overpowered Carlos Alcaraz 6-1 6-2 to reach the third round in Madrid.

 

Five-time Madrid champion Nadal was too dominant for Alcaraz, who was celebrating his 18th birthday today.

Next for Nadal in the last 16 will be Alexei Popyrin after the Australian beat Jannik Sinner in the second round.

It was a bright start for Alcaraz as he tried to implement his style of play on Nadal with a mix of variety and aggressive backhands.

The world number two managed to survive a tough opening hold and then get the break in the next game as he proved to be in total control of the contest.

In the third game, the newly-turned 18 year-old had to get treatment for an abdomen problem after stretching for an ambitious shot.

Luckily for the crowd in Madrid, Alcaraz was able to continue without limitations for the rest of the match.

However Nadal’s game was also without limitations as the 20-time grand slam champion’s ability to turn defence into attack continued to overwhelm Alcaraz.

After losing the opening five games, Alczraz managed to hold serve before Nadal wrapped up the first set in 37 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second set as the 34 year-old continued to increase the tempo of the match, using the whole width of the court to expose Alcaraz’s court positioning.

After losing the opening three games, the world number 120 did show some of his talents and potential as he broke the Nadal serve to show a bit of competitiveness to the contest.

However Nadal broke back and then completed victory in 1 hour and 15 minutes to seal his place in the last 16.

After the match Nadal praised his young opponent, “He has a lot of potential,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“He already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he’s going to be a fantastic player in the near future. I wish him all the very best. I really believe that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”

Alcaraz’s raw game still needs evolving while Nadal’s evolution continues to expand beyond its limits as preparation for a 14th Roland Garros title continues to improve.

Nadal will play Alexei Popyrin in the last 16 after he stunned 14th seed Jannik Sinner 7-6(5) 6-2.

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