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Brandon Nakashima, Most Recent Young American Tennis Player on the Rise, on verge of Top 100 Breakthrough in Atlanta

Brandon Nakashima beat top-seeded Milos Raonic for his first Top-30 win in Atlanta. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

By Ricky Dimon

Brandon Nakashima may not be the biggest name among up-and-coming American players, but it looks like he could be the one to produce the biggest hard-court summer.

Building on his first-ever ATP final last week in Los Cabos (lost to a red-hot Cameron Norrie), Nakashima now finds himself in the quarterfinals of the Truist Atlanta Open following a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over No. 1 seed Milos Raonic on Wednesday night. The 19-year-old failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set despite leading 40-15 in that game, but he recovered to survive a decisive tiebreaker and advance in two hours and 12 minutes.

“When I was serving for it in the third, my heart was definitely pounding really hard,” Nakashima admitted. “I was trying to tell myself to stay calm…but a couple of shots I got too excited and missed some early balls. I just tried to regroup as much as possible; I got some early points in the tiebreak and eventually closed it out at the end.”

Winning breeds more winning, which may have been why the San Diego, Calif. native was able to overcome his late-match hiccup against Raonic. He is simply finding ways to win at the moment regardless of the circumstances. In Los Cabos, Nakashima earned the three best victories of his career ranking-wise (over Sam Querrey, Jordan Thompson, and John Isner) en route to the title match, including a third-set tiebreaker defeat of Thompson (whom Nakashima will face again in the Atlanta quarterfinals on Friday).

Brandon Nakashima is fresh off his first ATP final in Los Cabos. EPA-EFE/Jorge Reyes
“I’m feeling great,” the former University of Virginia star assured. “Definitely a lot of confidence in my game right now.”

How confident? Well, after winning his first-round match over American wild card Trent Bryde on Tuesday night Nakashima was asked about his long-term goals. “To be No. 1 in the world,” he responded.

For now, though, he is focused on the little things and just trying to take it step by step. And another significant step will be taken if he beats Thompson again in the quarters: a spot in the top 100 of the ATP rankings.

“First of all you have to trust your game; you have to know what you’re capable of as a young player,” Nakashima explained. “For myself I just try to take care of the details in the matches and on the practice courts to get where I want to get.

“[Top 100] would mean a lot; it would definitely be a good accomplishment for me, coming up as a young American. But I’m trying not to look at the rankings too much right now; just trying to stay focused on these matches and we’ll worry about that after the tournament.”

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editor’s Note : Brandon is being coached by the great coach from Serbia Dusan Vemic. Dusan is currently at the Olympics with the Serbian tennis team. He and Brandon are really good together. Both fairly mellow guys. With one goal, reaching the TOP. The keen eye and consistency in Dusan’s style of coaching is really paying off. There’s tennis coaches that are great club coaches. And there’s tennis coaches for the pro tour. Dusan is a star of coaching on the big stages.