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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 8, 2023


Brandon Nakashima did not drop serve defusing John Isner 7-6(7), 6-3 in an all-American Indian Wells clash to set up a showdown with red-hot Daniil Medvedev.

Photo credit: Hector Vives/Getty

Turbulence swirled around Brandon Nakashima.

The Southern California baseliner absorbed it with the competitive calm of a man relishing another shot at happy homecoming.

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In an all-American Indian Wells opener, Nakashima saved a set point in the breaker toppling John Isner 7-6(7), 6-3 to reach the BNP Paribas Open second round for the third time.

"Anytime you go against John or anyone that has a big serve it's always gonna come down to crucial points out there," Nakashima told Tennis Channel's Steve Weissman afterward. "It's a matter of holding your nerve, obviously serving well at some points and just taking hyour opportunities when they come on return."

Though Nakashima carried an unimposing 1-3 record onto court, he did not drop serve defeating Dallas finalist Isner for the third time in four meetings. Nakashima punctuated the win signing the court-side camera lens with "So Cal" and a heart.

Last September, Nakashima defeated Marcos Giron to collect his maiden ATP title in his hometown of San Diego. 

This victory vaults Nakashima into a second-round match against 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

The third-seeded Medvedev rides a 14-match winning streak, sweeping back-to-back-to-back titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai into the desert.

Today, Nakashima played a cleaner match throughout and served with ambition. Nakashima had a higher first-serve percentage (70 percent to 65 percent), won more first-serve and second-serve points, faced only two break points and more than doubled Isner's point total in the front court winning 12 of his 13 trips to net.

Contesting his 15th BNP Paribas Open, the 37-year-old Isner trudged off the court with some wondering if this was his Palm Springs farewell.

Thirteen American men—most of any nation—started the day in the main draw with compatriots Isner and Nakashima squaring off for the fourth time. Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl champion QB and devoted Mets fan Patrick Mahomes was in the building to see it.

Rarely is the ATP ace king rattled on serve, but Isner stared down three break points in the opening game. On the first, Nakashima stepped into the court, lined up his trusty two-hander and whacked that golden opportunity well wide. Isner dodged three break points, navigating a challenging seven-minute hold to open.

For the fourth time in eight sets the pair played a tiebreaker.  Both men held a set point in the breaker.

Facing set point at 5-6, Isner scalded successive aces for a set point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker. Nakashima's second serve, which he can hit heavy with spin, was a key stroke in the breaker. Nakashima showed poise and power cracking a 102 mph second serve for a second set point.

Fighting off an Isner second serve into his hip, Nakashima forced the big man to defend his weaker two-handed wing, eventually eliciting a netted backhand to take a tight 65-minute opening set.

Showing small signs of frustrations, Isner tossed his Prince racquet against his bag before one changeover and rapped the racquet off the top of his thigh.

Facing a break point at 1-2 in the second set, the former all American at Georgia threw down a 134 mph ace to save a break point. Isner battled through to hold and level after four games.

Squinting into the sun on serve, Isner would have been wise to flip his backward baseball cap around for some sun protection. The big man went big on a 129 mph second serve, but missed it spitting up his seventh double fault to face double break point in the sixth game.

The 2012 champion missed another first serve and saw the rangy Nakashima put a return back and work the point. Isner sent a forehand beyond the baseline as Nakashima earned the first break of the day for 4-2.

Serving for his second victory of 2023, Nakashima caught the baseline with a forehand for double match point. Curling a crosscourt backhand inside the sideline, Nakashima sent the 2012 finalist out in the first round.

It was a good start for locals.

Former UCLA standout Marcos Giron beat wild card Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 7-5 without surrendering serve in today's first all-American match on stadium court.

Thousand Oaks, California native Giron will meet 14th-seeded compatriot Frances Tiafoe in a second-round encounter that's a rematch of the 2022 US Open first round. Tiafoe won that match in straight sets and went on to upset Rafa Nadal en route to the Flushing Meadows semifinals.

Elsewhere, Ugo Humbert converted four of five break points in a 6-2, 7-6(6) win over Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

The piano-playing Humbert showed his flair for fluidity and funk with this net-cord festival.

Next up for Humbert is an all-lefty second-rounder against former Wimbledon semifinalist Denis Shapovalov.

Argentinean Pedro Cachin was a 7-5, 6-3 victor over 2021 finalist Nikolaz Basilashvili to earn a second-round meeting with Olympic gold-medal champion Alexander Zverev.

Aussie Jason Kubler made a single break stand edging Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-6(4) despite some crazy-cool shotmaking from the lanky Italian. Kubler faces 21st-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in round two.


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