In a winner-takes-all Group A match, it was Brandon Nakashima who rose to the task Thursday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune 3-4(3), 4-1, 4-1, 4-3(1) to qualify for the semi-finals in Milan.
The 20-year-old defeated Juan Manuel Cerundolo in his opening round-robin match, but lost to Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday, meaning he faced Rune in a crunch clash after the Dane also went 1-1 in his opening two matches.
With the pressure on, Nakashima rallied from a set down, hitting his explosive groundstrokes with great depth as he showcased strong determination to secure his victory in one hour and 39 minutes. The fourth seed has finished second in Group A behind winner Alcaraz and will play the winner of Group B in the last four, to be determined later on Thursday.
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In front of a lively crowd at the Allianz cloud, the more experienced American kept his emotions in check to break Rune six times en route to victory in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.
Earlier this season, Nakashima, who hit five aces against the 18-year-old, became the youngest American since Andy Roddick in 2001-02 to advance to multiple tour-level finals when he reached back-to-back championship matches in Los Cabos and Atlanta when aged 19.
The World No. 63 arrived in Milan in form after he captured his second ATP Challenger Tour title of the season in Brest without dropping a set. With his victory, Nakashima has now won 11 of his past 13 matches.