19 Feb Teenage Dream For Nakashima
18-year-old Powers Into Quarterfinals
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Brandon Nakashima turned pro only a couple of months ago, so the 18-year-old has not been on the ATP Tour long enough to generate much of a following. He’s quickly making a name for himself, however, in his ATP Tour debut here at the Delray Beach Open this week.
Nakashima arrived here as a wild card ranked No. 294 in the world. He’s won his first two matches in straight sets, earning a berth in the quarterfinals with a 7-5, 6-2 win Wednesday afternoon against No. 60-ranked Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. Nakashima is the fourth youngest player to reach the quarterfinals at Delray Beach, and youngest since Kei Nishikori of Japan won the title here in 2008.
“It’s definitely probably one of the biggest matches I’ve played in my career,” Nakashima said. “I was real excited to come here and to win two matches now is real exciting.”
Nakashima was named the ACC Freshman of the Year in his only year playing at the University of Virginia before deciding to turn pro this past December. Even though he said he played against some pros a lot in Juniors in his hometown of San Diego and was confident he could compete on the ATP Tour, he had no lofty expectations when he was given a wild card berth in Delray Beach.
“I was just hoping to play a good match in the first round and hopefully gain some confidence,” Nakashima said. “It’s been a good start to the year, so I’m happy I made the decision to turn pro.”
Nakashima displayed the poise of a veteran against Norrie, who upset No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz in the first round. He broke Norrie in the decisive 12th game of the first set and grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second set en route to the straight-sets victory. He had no double faults and won 75 percent of his first-serve points.
Next up for Nakashima is No. 63-ranked Yoshito Nishioka of Japan, who upset No. 5 seed John Millman in the first round and breezed past American qualifier Noah Rubin 6-1, 6-2 on Court 1 Wednesday. Nishioka, who himself reached the quarterfinals here as a teen in 2015, will be the third consecutive left-hander Nakashima has faced this week.
Also Wednesday afternoon, Korean Soonwoo Kwon held off a strong challenge from American wild card Ryan Harrison. Kwon, who is ranked No. 82 in the world, ousted No. 7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the first round but needed three sets to beat Harrison 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(0). Harrison is working his way back from a lengthy layoff because of an elbow injury that plunged his ranking to No. 433. This was his 2020 ATP Tour debut.
“I am lucky to win today,” said Kwon, who with the win reaches his third quarterfinal of the year. “Really difficult match. He played well and had good ground strokes.”
The second round began with nine of the 11 Americans here having won their first-round matches, the most since the tournament’s inaugural year in 1993. Two of them, however, exited the tournament Wednesday afternoon, but Nakashima kept the Americans from suffering a shutout.