Nakashima is next, takes Milan Crown | TBEN | Tennis

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A year ago, Brandon Nakashima fell in the semifinals of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. The American wouldn’t be so heartbroken in his second – and final – appearance in Milan, beating Jiri Lehecka 4-3(5), 4-3(6), 4-2 in Saturday’s title match to take the top spot. undefeated tournament champion.

The 21-year-old quickly found his reach, hitting his fierce foundations with precision and power in front of a vocal crowd in the Allianz Cloud, becoming the first American to triumph in the 21-and-under event.

“I’m super happy right now,” Nakashima said. “It was a great tournament this whole week. This final was another tough match. Just a few points that could have gone either way. I am happy with my level today. It’s a good way to end the year.

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“It was a final, so there will be some pressures. There were some nerves in the beginning, but I’m glad I was able to turn it around quickly and close it in the end.”

In a hard-fought clash, Nakashima rallied 1-3 in the first set and saved two set points in the second set tie-break as he leveled up under pressure. The American hit 19 winners and made just four unforced errors to secure his standout 80-minute win.

Fourth-seeded Nakashima was a dominant force in Milan all week, losing just two sets in the round-robin stage, including a straight-sets win against Lehecka. He then defeated British lefty Jack Draper in the semifinals to reach the championship match.

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“Being American and being able to play here in Milan is the best feeling in the world,” said Nakashima. Nakashima Is Next, Clinches Milan Crown | TBEN | Tennis back to the United States and now take some time off.

“My team means everything to me. Together we’ve had such a great year, working well together. I’m happy with where we are now and we’re going to enjoy it.”

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The 21-year-old looked comfortable with the first-to-four, best-of-five-set format throughout the event, adapting quickly to the 15-second shotclock rule after aces and missed returns as he progressed through are service games during the week.

Nakashima is the fifth player to win the title in Milan, along with Hyeon Chung, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz.

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By triumphing in Italy, the American has closed his second season on the Tour in style. Nakashima, currently No. 49 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings, raised his first tour-level trophy domestically in San Diego and reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam at Wimbledon for the first time.

Lehecka started the season at number 141 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings, but is now number 74. The 21-year-old Czech, who beat Dominic Stricker to reach the final, enjoyed a run to the semi-finals as a qualifier in Rotterdam in February , before winning an ATP Challenger Tour trophy in Liberec.