SAN DIEGO, September 21, 2022 (by Richard Osborn)
Both ranking points and hometown bragging rights were on the line Tuesday night at the San Diego Open ATP 250, where locals Brandon Nakashima and Zachary Svajda went head-to-head in opening-round action at Barnes Tennis Center.
In the end, it was the fifth seed Nakashima of San Diego who would come out on top, dispatching the wildcard Svajda of La Jolla, 7-5, 7-6 (5). The 69th-ranked Nakashima continues to build on a summer that has seen the 21-year-old break through to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, and reach the third round earlier this month at the US Open.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) September 21, 2022
“It was a very tough match right from the beginning,” said Nakashima, who saved three set points in the second set. “Zach is so talented, striking the ball really well. We’re good friends off the court. We practice a lot together here in San Diego, so I knew it was going to be a tough match today. I was just lucky to grab a few points at the end of each set.”
Svajda, just 19 and No. 411 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, acquitted himself well in the one-hour, 54-minute battle. The two-time Boys’ 18s Nationals champion (2019, 2021) often extended the baseline rallies, flashing his defensive skills and making his opponent hit the extra ball or two. Nakashima finished with 36 winners to 28 unforced errors, and won 15 of 19 net points.
Next up for the San Diegan is countryman Denis Kudla, who earlier in the evening held off 38-year-old wildcard Fernando Verdasco of Spain, 6-3, 6-3, in one hour and 17 minutes.
The left-hander Verdasco is no stranger to pressure. (See his nearly five-hour-long, five-set dismissal of countryman Rafael Nadal at the 2016 Australian Open.) The former world No. 7 did his best to work his way back into the match, narrowing a 0-5 deficit in the second set with three unanswered games. But the 30-year-old Kudla hung on for victory, breaking their 1-1 deadlock in career head-to-heads.
“I thought the match was almost perfect until 6-3, 5-0 and I decided that the match was already over,” said Kudla with a laugh. “That was my biggest mistake. I got a little tight. You see, the pros choke, too. I’m human.”
Texan Mitchell Kreuger prevailed in a clash of qualifiers in Barnes Stadium, ousting Atlanta’s Christopher Eubanks, 6-4, 6-4, in their first tour-level encounter. The 28-year-old broke for 4-3 in the first set, and for 2-1 in the second to advance.
“If I take care of my serve, it frees up the rest of my game,” said Kreuger, who didn’t face a break point and won 34 of 39 first-serve points (87 percent). “It takes a lot of pressure off me. I thought I played about as clean of a match as I possibly could. Chris is a big player who can take the racquet out of your hand.”
Kreuger will next face seventh seed James Duckworth of Australia in Round 2.
Taro Daniel of Japan snapped a four-match skid, moving into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3 dismissal of 20-year-old Emilio Nava of Woodland Hills, Calif. Nava, a qualifier, came into the event at a career-high No. 173 after beginning the year at No. 323.
WEDNESDAY’S PREVIEW: BACK TO SCHOOL
Wednesday’s lineup at the San Diego Open ATP 250 has a certain collegiate, Pac-12 feel to it, with several former UCLA, USC and Stanford stars — all former NCAA singles champions — set to take the court.
Onetime Trojan Steve Johnson, who twice won the NCAA singles title in his days at USC (2011-12), will kick off the evening session at 5:30 p.m., in Barnes Stadium when he takes on sixth seed Alejandro Tabilo of Chile. No. 3 seed Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champ at UCLA, will follow against Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
Former UCLA Bruin Mackenzie McDonald, himself an NCAA singles and doubles champion in 2016, will usher in the day session at 11:30 a.m., when he faces Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen.
The doubles draw will see Stanford alum Bradley Klahn, who captured the NCAA singles title in 2010, team up with the veteran Verdasco to take on Mexico’s Hans Hach Verdugo and Treat Huey of the Philippines.
RESULTS – SEPTEMBER 20, 2022
Singles – First Round
 B. Nakashima (USA) d [WC] Z. Svajda (USA) 75 76(5)
T. Daniel (JPN) d [Q] E. Nava (USA) 64 63
[Q] M. Krueger (USA) d [Q] C. Eubanks (USA) 64 64
D. Kudla (USA) d [WC] F. Verdasco (ESP) 63 63
Doubles – First Round
[PR] M. Demoliner (BRA) / M. Melo (BRA) d M. Schnur (USA) / J. Smith (AUS) 63 61
M. Huesler (SUI) / H. Reese (USA) d [Alt] J. Eysseric (FRA) / A. Sitak (NZL) 64 64