ATP

Nakashima clinches ATP Next Gen title with victory over Lehecka

By Sports Desk November 12, 2022

Brandon Nakashima became the first American winner of the ATP Next Gen Finals with a straight-sets victory over Jiri Lehecka on Saturday.

The 21-year-old was beaten by Sebastian Korda in last year's semi-finals, but he more than made amends by winning all five matches in Milan en route to the title.

Lehecka was also defeated in straight sets by Nakashima in the group stage, but he broke his opponent in the opening game of the final at the Allianz Cloud.

Nakashima recovered from 3-1 down in a first set that went the distance and managed to get over the line after a 5-0 lead in the tie-break was reduced to 6-5.

Czech youngster Lehecka wasted a glorious chance to level up the contest when letting two set points pass him by in the second-set tie-break, which Nakashima went on to win.

The match was over inside 80 minutes as Nakashima, who struck 21 winners to Lehecka's 27, served out the final set to win 4-3 (7-5) 4-3 (8-6) 4-2.

"I am super happy right now," Nakashima said at his on-court interview. "It was a great tournament, this whole week. 

"This final was another tough match. Just a few points that could have gone either way. I am happy with my level today. It's a good way to finish off the year.

"It was a final so there are going to be some pressure moments. There were some nerves at the beginning, but I'm happy I was able to turn it around quickly and close it out."

Related items

  • Australian Open: 'I don't want to stop here' – Djokovic hungry for more after 22nd major triumph Australian Open: 'I don't want to stop here' – Djokovic hungry for more after 22nd major triumph

    Novak Djokovic "emotionally collapsed" after winning his 10th Australian Open title, before declaring: "I don't want to stop here."

    The irrepressible Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena to match Rafael Nadal's record tally of 22 men's singles grand slam triumphs.

    Djokovic's victory on Sunday also puts him back at the top of the world rankings, a year after he was unable to defend his title at Melbourne Park after being deported due to his vaccination status.

    The 35-year-old from Serbia was also prevented from playing in the US Open last September because of his refusal to take a coronavirus vaccine, but he has made a dream start to 2023.

    He was crowned champion of Adelaide International 1 before extending his Australian Open winning streak to 28 matches, with his last defeat in the first major of the year coming at the hands of Hyeon Chung in the fourth round back in 2018.

    While in Melbourne this time, Djokovic had to contend with questions about his father, Srdjan, posing with a group of men waving Russian flags that were banned from the grounds during the tournament.

    His father did not attend his son's semi-final win over Tommy Paul or the final, but the legendary Belgrade native was able to embrace mother Dijana after defeating Tsitsipas.

    Djokovic, who was struggling with a hamstring injury in the first week of the tournament, was in floods of tears and dropped to the floor in his box after being mobbed by his team following what he described as "the biggest victory of my life" in his on-court interview.

    He said: "When I went into my box, I just think I emotionally collapsed there and teared up with especially my mother and my brother, when I gave them a hug, because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury. Things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game.

    "It required an enormous mental energy really to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day, and really see how far I can go.

    "If I turn back the time two and a half weeks ago, I wasn't really liking my chance in this tournament with the way I felt with my leg. Then it was just a matter of survival of every single match, trying to take it to the next round.

    "The good thing about the grand slam here is that you have a day between the matches, so it allowed me to have more time than normally on some other tournaments to recover, to try to do all the treatments in order to get myself in somewhat of a good state and condition to play and eventually win.

    "From fourth round onwards, I feel the leg was not bothering me as much. I felt my movement was much better. I played some of my best tennis in the Australian Open. The fourth round, quarter-final, semi-finals, just really comfortable on the court, hitting the ball great. I knew that against Stefanos, it's going to be different match than what I had throughout the entire tournament."

    Djokovic added: "It was a huge relief and release of the emotions in the end. Just difficult to find any additional words really. It's been a long journey, but a very special one."

    He will head to the French Open in May eyeing major number 23 and is eager to better the great Margaret Court's haul of 24.

    "Of course I am motivated to win as many slams as possible," Djokovic said. "At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete. That's the case without a doubt.

    "I never really liked comparing myself to others, but of course it's a privilege to be part of the discussion as one of the greatest players of all time. If people see me this way, of course it's very flattering because I know that I give as much effort and energy into trying to win slams as anybody else.

    "I still have lots of motivation. Let's see how far it takes me. I really don't want to stop here. I don't have intention to stop here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I'm feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody.

    "I like my chances going forward. But, again, nothing is given or nothing is for granted. Of course, I have awareness there's a lot of players that want this trophy or want the number one position in the world.

    "I don't know how many more years I'm going to play or how many more slams I'm going to play. It depends on various things. It doesn't depend only on my body.

    "It's extremely important for me to have the support and love from the close ones, and ability to go and play and keep the balance with the private life, but at the same time have the mental clarity or aspirations to really strive to chase these trophies.

    "Physically I can keep myself fit. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is. But I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let's see how far I go."

  • Australian Open: Djokovic is from 'other space' and received '77 therapies a day' - Ivanisevic Australian Open: Djokovic is from 'other space' and received '77 therapies a day' - Ivanisevic

    Goran Ivanisevic says Novak Djokovic is from "other space" and revealed he took "77 therapies a day" on a hamstring injury to ensure he could win a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.

    Serbian great Djokovic moved level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slam titles, a record for male players, by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena in Sunday's final.

    Djokovic was able to go all the way at Melbourne Park despite suffering from a hamstring problem that troubled him particularly during the first week.

    The 35-year-old moved back to the top of the rankings with his latest major triumph and Ivanisevic, his coach, felt it was impressive that he was able to play, let alone win the title. 

    "Let me put it like this. I don't say 100 per cent, but 97 per cent of the players, on Saturday when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee's office and pull out of the tournament," the Croatian said. 

    "But not him. He is from other space. His brain is working different. I [have been] with him [for] four years, but it still sometimes [amazes me] how his brain works.

    "He gave everything, 77 therapies a day. Every day was kind of better and better. I didn't expect this. Honestly, I was shocked. First two rounds [were] okay, but then against [Grigor] Dimitrov [I] was very scared.

    "But he got through and in the end he won the tournament."

    Djokovic also became the third-oldest player in the Open Era to win the Australian Open, younger only than Ken Rosewall (in 1972 and 1971) and Roger Federer (2018).

    Ivanisevic was also asked by reporters how much longer he believes Djokovic can continue to take on all comers at the highest level.

    "Definitely two, three more years. The way he's taking care of his body, the way he approaches everything, the food, it's amazing. It's unbelievable the level," he said.

    "We are talking about young guys. They're here, it's great for tennis, great for the future of tennis.

    "But you still have these two guys [Djokovic and Nadal] battling. This was Novak's home court, and now we are going to Rafa's home court [the French Open] in this handball match of 22-22.

    "Yes, [young players] are coming, [Carlos] Alcaraz, unbelievable. Still, if Rafa steps on the court on the French Open, for me, he's always the favourite to win the tournament... [Djokovic and Nadal] really push each other.

    "It's good that we have a lot of young guys. We have Stefanos who is going to win a grand slam definitely one day because he's just an amazing player."

  • Australian Open: Djokovic the 'greatest that ever held a tennis racquet', declares runner-up Tsitsipas Australian Open: Djokovic the 'greatest that ever held a tennis racquet', declares runner-up Tsitsipas

    Stefanos Tsitsipas paid tribute to Novak Djokovic after losing to the Serbian in Sunday's Australian Open final, lauding him as the "greatest that ever held a tennis racquet".

    Djokovic was at his dominant best as he drew level with Rafael Nadal on 22 men's grand slam singles titles thanks to a straight-sets win over Tsitsipas at Melbourne Park.

    The 35-year-old won 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) at Rod Laver Arena to make it 10 wins from as many Australian Open finals.

    Djokovic was barred from defending his own crown last year when deported from Australia due to his COVID-19 vaccination status, but he returned with a vengeance in 2023, dropping just one set across seven matches as he also reclaimed the world number one spot.

    But most importantly it put him level again with Nadal in terms of major titles after the Spaniard won in Melbourne and Roland Garros last year.

    Despite this parity, Tsitsipas has no doubt who he believes is the best to ever play the sport.

    "Novak, I don't know what to say. It speaks for itself what you have achieved so far," said the 24-year-old, whose wait for a maiden grand slam title continues. "It's all in the numbers.

    "Congratulations, not only to yourself but having such a supportive family. I think it is very similar the way we grew up around tennis, so it's been an unbelievable journey for you.

    "I admire what you've done for our sport, and I think you make me a better player when are on court.

     

    "I have had the privilege to play a lot of difficult and high intensity matches, but I would like to say one more time Novak brings out the best in me.

    "He's one of the greatest in our sport, and he's the greatest that has ever held a tennis racquet, for sure.

    "I'd like to thank you for pushing our sport so far. I think it deserves a player like you who pushes every single player that's involved in the sport to the max."

    Tsitsipas, who was bidding to become the 27th male singles champion at the Australian Open, had his moments as he forced set point in the second and broke Djokovic at the start of the third.

    But Djokovic's famed powers of recovery were as strong as ever, and Tsitsipas – beaten by the same opponent in the 2021 French Open final – quickly turned his attention back to the daily grind.

    "It's not easy, another final at a grand slam, but I am always willing to go back on court and work harder," he continued. "I would like to thank my team for coming on this journey with me.

    "I am happy I have group of supportive people around me, people who wake up every single day and have the same goals and ambitions as me. I'm extremely privileged that I get to do this for a living."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.