The American, whose father is of Japanese descent, defeated the Japanese wild card Shintaro Mochizuki 6-3, 6-2 in the first round at the Tokyo ATP 500 event.
“It’s my first time in Japan, so I’m still learning a lot about it, but it’s very exciting. It’s beautiful so far,” said Nakashima in his post-match interview. “My father’s family is Japanese. That’s how I got my last name. Every time I find out more about my background I get super excited so I’m happy to be here.
“The atmosphere is really great. I feel at home.”
Mochizuki, 19, made a strong start on his Tokyo debut and was aiming for his first tour-level win, but Nakashima pulled away by winning nine of the last 11 games, going 3-3 in the opening set. Nakashima didn’t have a break point in the contest and won 84 percent (21/25) of his first serve points.
“Every time I serve well, it affects every other part of my game,” Nakashima said. “I’m glad I served well today.”
The 21-year-old is full of confidence after his triumph in San Diego and has been pleased with how his game has translated to Tokyo conditions.
“Winning my first ATP title was definitely one of my goals earlier in the year,” he said. “Doing this in my hometown was very special.
“Coming here is quite a distance from where I last played and I’m still kind of getting used to the conditions out here and happy week here.”
Nakashima will face either the ninth seed Borna Korik or Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, with the pair scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon. The American is currently sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan as he aims to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the second year in a row.
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Mochizuki, playing in his sixth Tour-level match overall and third ATP Tour event in 2022, savored the experience in front of his home crowd despite the loss.
“The last tournament I played in Japan was when I was 12 or 13, so it’s been five or six years since I played here. It was very nice,” he said.
“It’s amazing that a lot of people support me. I don’t experience that very often at my level now, so of course it’s incredible and I really want to play again next year… Off the pitch, it’s very comfortable to stay in Japan . I know everything. I love Japanese food.”
The American, making his second appearance in Tokyo, fired off eight aces and saved both break points he faced to advance after 74 minutes. The 24-year-old has now won seven of his last nine games after enjoying a place in the semi-finals at FC US Open Last month.
In the opening game on Monday Pedro Martinez dejected Alexei Popyrin 7-5, 6-4. The win ended the Spaniard’s eight-game losing streak at all levels, including six losses at tour level. He awaits the winner of the top seed Kasper Ruud‘s Tuesday meeting with Jaume Munar.