US Open: Alexander Zverev wears down Brandon Nakashima
Zverev serves his way into round three (Photo: Al Bello)

After seeing-off the dangerous Kevin Anderson in round one, much was expected of Alexander Zverev’s round two meeting with slam debutant Brandon Nakashima on the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

19 year-old Nakashima came into the clash with a superb straight-set victory over veteran Paolo Lorenzi, and troubled the fifth-seed for long periods until his spirit was eventually broken in the third and fourth sets.

Zverev snatches the opening set

The match began with Nakashima winning the toss and electing to serve, with the opening few games going with serve comfortably for each player. The first break point opportunity arrived in the fifth game, where Nakashima saved 3 break points, helped by Zverev uncharacteristically missing a very-makeable backhand. The Grand Slam debutant had a makeable shot of his own in the very next game, unable to force any more pressure from a 15-30 opening.

A 0-30 opportunity was missed for both in the next return games, with Zverev notably missing another backhand. The set appeared to be heading to a tiebreaker with Nakashima serving 40-0 up, but suddenly errors creeped into the youngster's game, and he was broken after 5 consecutive errors. Zverev grabbed the opportunity with both hands, serving the set out to 15 with a 7-5 scoreline.

Image: Al Bello
Image: Al Bello

Nakashima fights back to level the match

The match threatened to slip away from the young American who found himself in a 0-30 hole, but impressively held after multiple deuces. He had a 0-30 chance on return himself a few games later, but missed out before a few comfortable holds for each. The world number 223 created two set points with two big returns, but he went long with the forehand with the set on his racket, before Zverev escaped to 5-5 and later, to a long-awaited long tiebreak.

Nakashima quickly applied pressure and ran into a stunning 5-0 lead, but he was pegged back to 6-6 after missing another three set points. The momentum appeared all for the German, but Nakashima held firm, saving a set point and benefitting from a ninth double-fault by Zverev to claim the second set.

Zverev starts to dominate

The momentum had completely swung in the 19 year-old’s favour, pressuring in his first return game and holding to love early on. He was more than holding his own in the rallies, with Zverev’s serve arguably keeping the German in it, but a loose fourth game in the third set allowed the fifth seed to open up a break’s advantage at 3-1. 3 break point opportunities appeared for Nakashima straight away, but the serve again was the difference in a pivotal stage of the match. The importance of this hold of serve was apparent with huge “come on’s” coming from the 23 year-old, a veteran in this match-up, and he served out the set comfortably to put himself within a set of making the third round.

Job done for Zverev

The world number seven was even closer to victory after breaking in the very first game of the fourth set, and held well when pushed to deuce at 3-1 to establish the advantage. A further two breaks of the American’s serve followed, with Zverev completing his victory at the second time of asking, just shy of three hours.

(Photo: US Open)
(Photo: US Open.org)

He may have ultimately come-up short, but Brandon Nakashima can be proud of his performance. He pushed Alexander Zverev very hard, forcing the fifth-seed to a fourth set in his very first slam. The 19 year-old more than matched his more-illustrious opponent within rallies, just Zverev's first serve percentage and winners proving just a bit too much.

In defeating Nakashima, Zverev reaches the third round at the US Open for the third consecutive year, and meets either Adrian Mannarino or Jack Sock in the next round. He coped well with the pressure applied to him, winning the big, important points when it really mattered. 10 double-faults doesn't read too well, but his serve looked mightily powerful when it went in and could take him far at Flushing Meadows.

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