The American, who is making his debut at the 21-and-under event in Milan, played aggressively to overcome Juan Manuel Cerundolo 4-1, 3-4(3), 4-1, 4-0 to move to 1-0 in Group A.
“It was super fun out here,” Nakashima said in his on-court interview. “The atmosphere was electric right from the beginning. It is an amazing feeling playing in front of these fans. I am really happy with how I played in front of all these fans. [It was important] to stay there mentally. A lot of crucial points out there with the no-Ad and then in the second set he kind of picked up his level and I had to battle.”
Nakashima arrived in Milan in form, having captured his second ATP Challenger Tour title of the season in Brest in October. The 20-year-old has now won 10 of his past 11 matches and played with such confidence against Cerundolo as he quickly adapted to the first-to-four best-of-five set format.
Nakashima: ‘Cool To Get Coach’s Opinion’ During Matches
In their first ATP Head2Head meeting, Nakashima opened his shoulders and struck the ball with great power to pin the Argentine back behind the baseline. After dropping the second set, the fourth seed raised his level, not facing a break point in the third and fourth sets to secure victory after one hour and 32 minutes.
“It is different from the practise court now to the matches,” Nakashima added. “Also with the crucial points. It is tough sometimes, but you have to stay focused as much as possible and take every opportunity out there. I just tried to stick to my game plan and hopefully I will be able to continue.”
During a standout 2021 season, Nakashima 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 aged 19. He then defeated Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus Alex de Minaur en route to the quarter-finals in Antwerp last month.
The World No. 63 will also play Umag champion Carlos Alcaraz and Dane Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune during the round-robin stage in Milan, with Alcaraz and Rune facing each other later on Tuesday in Group A.