Meet San Diegan tennis star, Brandon Nakashima

Credit: Tennis World

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Credit: San Diego Open

In December of 2018, Brandon Nakashima graduated a semester early from High Bluff Academy in Rancho Santa Fe in an attempt to play high-level tennis as quickly as possible.

Nakashima immediately found immense success, winning ACC Freshman of the Year at Virginia before turning professional. He went from being a high school senior to becoming a 17-year-old professional tennis player in eight months. He is also the highest-ranked tennis player from San Diego and one of the favorites for the San Diego Open at the end of the month. 

Nakashima’s journey has been an incredible one, but the arduous grind of being a professional player is something that he has had to adapt to.

He’ll be playing in his 20th tournament of the year, a career-high when the San Diego Open starts. “It’s difficult with all the traveling, to new cities, playing new events, but I’ve really enjoyed all of it,” the young tennis player said in an interview with EVT. Nakashima discussed the fact that he was looking forward to spending time with family and friends more than anything else.

The tennis season hardly stops, as it begins on January 1. The final matches will be played on November 28. Nakashima enjoyed a rare week off in San Diego, cooling off from a third-round run in the US Open. His second-round win knocked off current world  No. 23 Grigor Dimitrov, before falling in four sets to Jannik Sinner. He’s playing some of the best tennis of his career but discussed his highlights in a breakout 2021 season.

Nakashima’s career started with success as he immediately made it to the quarterfinals of the Delray Beach Open before falling in three sets to Yoshihito Nishioka. The immediate success re-affirmed Nakashima’s decision, “It was super big for my confidence, knowing that I can compete with those guys,” he said.  

Credit: Tennis Time

After returning from the global quarantine, 2021 truly proved to be Nakashima’s first year on the center stage.

The (then) 19-year-old Nakashima made back-to-back ATP finals, falling to Cameron Norris in Los Cabos, before a week later going down to John Isner in Atlanta. The strong fortnight moved Nakashima into the top 100 players in the world for the first time, finishing the year a career-best 62nd in the world.

The strong season meant that Nakashima was seeded fourth for the Next Gen ATP Finals, which features players who are 21 and younger. He made it to the semifinals of the tournament, which helped him secure the ATP Newcomer of the Year award. When asked to pick between all of his highlights, the young tennis player deliberated for a moment before deciding, “Those two ATP finals tournaments, that was such a good two weeks for me,” Nakashima stated happily. 

While 2022 has not seen any ATP finals for Nakashima, it has been a year of success on the biggest of stages. He advanced to the third round in both the French and US Open while making a fourth-round run in Wimbledon. The San Diegan pushed eventual Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios to five sets in an absolute thriller.

Credit: Tennis Majors

The 2022 season really has shown Nakashima’s ability to play on all surfaces, something that he says he enjoys. Nakashima admitted (that he felt) he played his best on hard courts. “I would say that it (hard courts) is my favorite surface to play on. Obviously, it is what I’ve grown up playing on, and I think it’s one of my better surfaces,” Nakashima told EVT. The San Diego Open, held at Barnes Tennis Center, is a hard court, which should play into Nakashima’s strengths. All five of Nakashima’s ATP Futures or ITF Challenger tournament finals came on hard courts, as well as both ATP Tour finals. 

Nakashima talked about individual aspects of his game as well, saying that his backhand is his best shot, as well as the entirety of the baseline game. However, the young phenom also discussed the importance of his serve, saying, “I’m a hard guy to break, and I take pride in that.”

Obviously, playing on a hard court, the serve will be critical, so it’ll be important that Nakashima is able to be both powerful and consistent with his serves.

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When asked about his chances and expectations for the San Diego Open. “I definitely have the game and the right mindset to win the tournament. Obviously, there are a lot of great players in the tournament, and it won’t be easy…, but hopefully, I’ll be able to win my first ATP title in my home city,” Nakashima said.

Brandon Nakashima is absolutely right that he’s got the talent, and he’ll certainly be one to watch at the tournament in San Diego. 

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