Saturday, October 12, 2019

Nakashima, 18, reaches first Challenger semifinal

   Brandon Nakashima, an 18-year-old wild card from San Diego, beat fourth-seeded Taro Daniel of Japan 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) on Friday in the quarterfinals of the $108,320 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.
   Nakashima became the youngest American man to reach a Challenger semifinal since Taylor Fritz won the 2015 Fairfield Challenger at 17. Fritz is now ranked No. 29 at age 21.
   Nakashima, a University of Virginia sophomore, is playing in only his fifth professional tournament of the year. He advanced to the quarterfinals in the $108,320 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger two weeks ago, losing to Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in a third-set tiebreaker. Kwiatkowski won the 2017 NCAA singles title as a University of Virginia senior.
   Daniel reached the quarterfinals in Tokyo on the ATP World Tour last week, upsetting then-No. 14 Borna Coric in the first round, to rise 16 spots to No. 111. He is 1-0 against Novak Djokovic and has been ranked as high as No. 64 in August last year.
   Nakashima will skyrocket at least 222 places to No. 487 in Monday's updated rankings. He is scheduled to face top-seeded Steve Johnson for the first time today not before noon in a matchup of Southern Californians.
   Johnson, a Los Angeles-area resident who has slumped from a career-high No. 21 in 2016 to No. 99, trounced ninth-seeded Darian King of Barbados 6-1, 6-1 in 62 minutes.
   In today's first semifinal at 11 a.m., unseeded Kevin King, an Atlanta native and resident ranked No. 399, will meet 12th-seeded Christopher O'Connell, an Australian ranked a career-high No. 192, for the first time.
   Kevin King, a 28-year-old former Georgia Tech All-American, eliminated eighth-seeded Peter Polansky of Canada, 6-3, 7-6 (10) after knocking off former top-70 players Ernesto Escobedo, seeded 15th, in the second round and Denis Kudla, seeded second, in the third round.
   Kevin King, a 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter) left-hander, slugged 12 aces, had six double faults and put in 69 percent of his first serves. He won 75 percent of the points (43 of 57) on his first serve and 58 percent (15 of 26) on his second delivery.
   Kevin King has been ranked as high as No. 162 in May last year. He reached the second round in Atlanta on the ATP World Tour in July as a qualifier, shocking former world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. Later in the summer, Dimitrov ousted Roger Federer in the U.S. Open to reach his third Grand Slam semifinal.
   O'Connell dispatched Jack Draper 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Fairfield semifinals for the second time in three years and end the 17-year-old Briton's winning streak at eight matches.
   The 25-year-old O'Connell, only 6 feet (1.83 meters), served even better than King. O'Connell blasted 17 aces, committed only one double fault and put in 70 percent of his first serves. He won 89 percent of the points (33 of 37) on his first serve and 50 percent (eight of 16) on his second.
   O'Connell has played in a whopping 12 singles finals this year (two in $50,000-plus tournaments, three in $25Ks and seven in $15Ks), winning four.
   None of the Fairfield semifinalists has lost a set in the tournament. O'Connell, in fact, hasn't lost more than four games in a set.
   Here are the updated Fairfield singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. Live streaming is available.

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