EXCLUSIVE: Brandon Nakashima Talks About Future Of American Tennis And Progress In Florence - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Brandon Nakashima Talks About Future Of American Tennis And Progress In Florence

Ubitennis director Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to Brandon Nakashima after his opening round win in Florence.

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Brandon Nakashima (@StuTweetsNY - Twitter)

After his impressive 6-2 6-2 victory over Richard Gasquet at the Unicredit Florence Open, Brandon Nakashima spoke exclusively to Ubaldo Scanagatta about the future of American tennis.

The American produced a stunning performance to defeat Richard Gasquet in straight sets to reach the second round in Florence, where he will face Altug Celikbilek.

Nakashima is ranked 46 in the world and is one of American tennis’ biggest prospects with the country enjoying a surge of success in the men’s game. After his victory, the 21 year-old spoke to UbiTennis about conditions in Florence, coming back to Italy and the future of American men’s tennis.

Scanagatta: Not too many problems was quite easy for you, when you were serving you were winning 90%?

Nakashima: Yeah it was a very good match from me. He is a very experienced player on the tour and I knew I had to serve well and return well at the critical points so I think I did that pretty well today and I’m excited to be in the next round.

Scanagatta: Somebody said that this surface is quite slow and some players say that it doesn’t help the great servers but you seem to serve pretty well?

Nakashima: Yeah, I mean you know this surface is a little bit on the slower side but I feel like it suits my game well and I like playing indoors here. So I’m feeling good on the court and you know serving well definitely helps.

Scanagatta: One year ago with UbiTennis we interview you with Steve Flink, you were pretty confident on your future but I’d like to know if one year later you feel you have done better than expected, less than you expected or you are satisfied the way you did?

Nakashima: Yeah you know I’m happy with my progression throughout the last couple of years and you know I think with the coaches I have right now with the team around me, I think we are on the right track so I’m happy with the progression, I think we are heading in a positive way.

Scanagatta: Strangely enough there are five Americans playing the tournament in Florence where most of you have never been before, I’d like to know if you have time to look a little bit at the city or you didn’t? Because you have to practice, the usual stuff.

Nakashima: Yeah we got here a few days early and we were actually able to go one night into the city and walk around a little bit. You know have some good food around there and it’s very beautiful here, it’s my first time and you know anytime where I’m able to come back to Italy, I’m always super excited.

Scanagatta: Did you have some particular memories about one place more than another here or there was one thing that impressed you more or not?

Nakashima: You know, I think just walking along the river at night with all the lights and everything over the bridge, it’s super cool. You can see the history of the city really well so I’m really happy to be here.

Scanagatta: Now you will have to play a Turkish player and did you know him, have you ever seen him playing and what do you expect?

Nakashima: Yeah I’ve seen him play a little bit. I’ve never played him before, you know he’s had a pretty good year this year. And all-round he’s a pretty solid player so I’m going to go into it like any other match and focus on my game and try to play well out there.

Scanagatta: A few years ago people were afraid in America that there were no more good American players, they said only John Isner is surviving the top players. Now there are many, so what is your reaction to the fact that Fritz won a tournament in Japan beating Tiafoe? So a lot of young kids more or less like you are doing very well, so how do you explain it why suddenly there were no Americans before, not too many, and now suddenly there are five, six who are very good including you.

Nakashima: I think the past couple of years we’ve always had the talent in the young Americans and you know it’s really nice to see this year you know all of us doing really well at different tournaments all around the world. We’re constantly improving and building off each other, so I’m really happy with American tennis and I think we’re heading in the right direction.

Scanagatta: Now you don’t have to be too diplomatic but United States is going to play in Davis Cup versus Italy and who do you think is the favourite and who do you think will play for United States, probably Tiafoe and Fritz but maybe you’re going to be there or not?

Nakashima: Yeah, I’m not sure. I think we have a pretty strong team, a lot of great players and I’m sure Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe are going to play really well. It’s going to be exciting to play against Italy, there a really tough team as well with a lot of good players, so it’s going to be really exciting for both teams.

Scanagatta: Who’s Stronger, Berretttini or Sinner?

Nakashima: I don’t know, probably Sinner for me.

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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