Djokovic defeats Tsitsipas for the 9th consecutive time at the ATP Finals
MILAN — American Brandon Nakashima stayed perfect in Milan as he won the Next Gen ATP Finals on Saturday with his second straight-sets win over Jiří Lehečka this week.
Nakashima took just 80 minutes to win 4-3(5), 4-3(6), 4-2, winning the title on the first of three championship points when Lehečka sent a long forehand.
Nakashima, seeded fourth, has won all five of his matches at the year-end tournament for players 21 and under, including a straight-sets win over Lehečka in the group stage.
“It’s been a great season for me. I definitely learned a lot in every game, in every tournament,” said Nakashima, who won his first ATP title in his hometown of San Diego in September.
“Of course at the beginning of the year I had goals, winning my first ATP title and being able to do it in San Diego was super special. To end the year here with the Next Gen title is super special. I think the whole year for me has been very consistent.
Nakashima had to recover from a 3-1 loss in the opener and also faced two set points in the second set tiebreaker.
“I think in those pressure situations it all comes down to your mental game,” he said. “It’s about staying calm in those times, of course there will be some nerves sometimes, but you just try to manage as best you can.
“I think in those pressure situations I’m pretty good this year.”
Lehečka was looking for revenge as well as the title and broke Nakashima’s serve in the very first match. But Nakashima turned back in the sixth game to bring the set to a tiebreaker, where the American took a 5-0 lead and went on to win the set.
Lehečka threatened to start the second set the same way, but Nakashima managed to save two break points early on.
Indeed, the next break of serve was to prove to be the most important as it came in the final match of the tournament.
“It was a tough game. Brandon was playing really good tennis this week,” Lehečka said. “He deserved to win, he was playing the best tennis in everyone here.
“I’m sad that I didn’t take at least one set today, I was a break in the first, I had two set points in the second, so it’s kind of unlucky… He was more solid in crucial moments, that’s how I would explain today’s defeat.
It was Nakashima’s second appearance at the Next Gen Finals, having lost to fellow countryman Sebastian Korda in the semi-finals last year.
This is the fifth edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals, which featured shorter first-to-four-game series and other experimental format changes. The new rules included no changes after the first game of each set and only one sit-down per set after three games; a service clock of 15 seconds after aces, double faults and unreturned serves; and coaching during an opponent’s medical time-out or bathroom break.
Current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz won last year’s edition.
“This tournament is great. I think it’s great that all the up-and-coming young players come together and compete in a nice and fun format,” Nakashima said. “I think it exposes the younger generation really well, so I think that it is an excellent springboard for the ATP circuit.
“To be on this list with all the former champions I think is a great achievement and we just have to keep working hard and looking forward to next year.”