The 19-year-old turned heads last week at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos, where he defeated the likes of Sam Querrey and John Isner on his way to his first ATP Tour final (l. to Norrie). He added one more name to his win list after upsetting Raonic, currently No. 22 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, in Atlanta.
Nakashima, who sits in ninth position in the ATP Race To Milan for a spot into the Next Gen ATP Finals, won his second three-setter in as many days after rallying from a set down against Raonic. The big-serving Canadian was contesting his first tournament since the Miami Open presented by Itau in March, and he was dictating play early on.
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But double faults and unforced errors would be Raonic’s undoing against the battle-tested Nakashima. The 19-year-old earned his first break of serve as a result of four double faults from Raonic – interrupted by two aces – in the same game at 4-3 in the opening set. The Canadian was able to recover to take the 50-minute first set, but quickly found himself on the back foot as Nakashima got going in the second set.
Nakashima improved his first-serve percentage from 42 per cent in the first set to 72 per cent in the second. The difference showed as Nakashima only lost five points behind his serve, and kept the pressure firmly on Raonic. He earned the decisive break at 3-2, and kept his nose in front to level the match.
The normally cool-headed American showed his first sign of nerves as he served for the match at 5-4. He worked his way to two match points at 40/15, but missed two routine backhands to give Raonic a chance to come back. Nakashima regrouped in the tie-break, winning three points in a row from 3/2 and converting his fifth match point to seal the victory.
Nakashima will next face Jordan Thompson in the quarter-final, after the Aussie edged past German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk 7-6(4), 6-4 earlier in the day. The 19-year-old is into his third career quarter-final, after reaching the last eight at Delray Beach in 2020 and the final in Los Cabos last week.