Brandon Nakashima Lifts Chicago Past New York in Supertiebreaker
Brandon Nakashima may be the youngest player in World TeamTennis, but he played like a veteran on a sun-drenched Friday at The Greenbrier.
In a matchup of 2-1 teams entering the day's play as part of a four-way tie atop the WTT standings, Chicago pulled out a 22-21 victory decided in a supertiebreaker won by Nakashima against Jack Sock.
"I knew it was going to be a very tough match," said Nakashima, who faced Sock earlier this year at Indian Wells before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the ATP season. "Going into that last set, we were down a couple of games, and I knew I had to win that set and get a few more games after that - and eventually, I got it done."
Three matches - mixed doubles, men's doubles, and men's singles - featured a 9-point tiebreaker.
In mixed doubles, Chicago's Rajeev Ram and Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost 5-4 to the Empire duo of Neal Skupski and Kim Clijsters after trading wins during the first eight games. The Smash was up 3-1 during the tiebreaker before New York rallied to score three of the final four points.
The Smash women's doubles tandem of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Genie Bouchard swept past New York's Kveta Peschke and Sabine Lisicki, 5-2. After Chicago went ahead 3-0, including a love-service game from Bouchard, Empire coach Luke Jensen subbed in Clijsters for Peschke. The teams split the final four games as the Smash were down 15-40 in the last game and rallied to take the match and a 9-7 lead.
Nakashima and Rajeev Ram dropped a hard-fought 5-4 decision to Skupski and Sock in men's doubles. During the 9-point tiebreaker, New York gained a 4-3 advantage on a return lob by Skupski to the backline that fell in, then put away the match when Sock's returned Ram's serve and Nakashima hit wide on a return volley. The win pulled New York within 13-12.
The women's singles match featured U.S. Open champions Sloane Stephens (2017) and Kim Clijsters (2005, 2009-10). The veteran Clijsters was relentless in battling to take the last three games for a 5-2 decision and put the Empire ahead 17-15.
Nakashima, the Guaranteed Rate Player of the Match, returned to the court for the men's singles match to face Sock, who won the first game to push New York's lead to 18-15. However, the 18-year-old Nakashima won three consecutive games to knot the score at 18-all.
Sock rebounded with three wins before Nakashima rallied to tie the match at 4-4 (21-19) and force a 9-point tiebreak. After falling behind 4-2, Nakashima scored three points to force extended play with the Smash trailing 21-20.
Sock and Nakashima were 15-15 and 30-30 before the youngster won the final two points to force the super tiebreaker.
Under the rules, if the match is tied after five sets or after extended play, a 13-point super tiebreaker is played. The first to 7 points wins.
Sock won the coin toss to serve first and eventually went up 2-0. Nakashima took three of the next four points for a 3-3 tie. The players were knotted at 5-5 before Nakashima crashed the net for his sixth point. He sealed the match - and the Smash victory - with a backhand into the cross-court to cap the comeback.
Nakashima said he's picking up more confidence playing with and against the top players, noting that he's "getting some good results, [and] obviously the strategy and technique with my stokes.
"I think my serve has improved a lot since college; I'm getting a lot more free points. The overall athleticism and maturity have improved in the last couple of months."
Chicago improved to 3-1, tied with Philadelphia atop the WTT leaderboard.
Chicago tallied a season-high 10 aces against New York and has 15 in the past two matches. The Smash has 26 aces for the season.
The Smash faces the Orange County Breakers (1-3) at noon ET Saturday on ESPN2. Chicago topped OCB, 23-16, on Wednesday.
• Discuss this story on the World TeamTennis message board...
World TeamTennis Stories from July 17, 2020
- Washington Teammates Share What It's Like to Play with Venus Williams - Washington Kastles
- Sam Querrey's Dominant Play Highlights Vegas Win over Springfield in Extended Play - Vegas Rollers
- Brandon Nakashima Lifts Chicago Past New York in Supertiebreaker - Chicago Smash
- Chicago Smash Steal One from the New York Empire with Dramatic Comeback - New York Empire
- Sofia Kenin Shines as Philadelphia Holds off Washington in Extended Play; Venus Makes WTT 2020 Debut - Philadelphia Freedoms
- Jack Sock and FiancÃÂ©e Lauren Little Juggle Tennis Restart with Wedding Plans - New York Empire
- Kastles Lose Heartbreaker to Lasers, 20-18, on Last Point of Match - Washington Kastles
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.
Other Recent Chicago Smash Stories
- Chicago Punches Tickets to Championship Match; Throttles Orlando
- Chicago Smash Eye No. 1 Overall Seed, Lock up WTT Playoffs Berth
- Sloane Stephens Powers Chicago to Decisive Victory against New York
- Chicago Edges Closer to Locking up Playoff Spot; Holds off Washington 21-15
- Chicago's Eugenie Bouchard Makes the Most of on and Off-Court Opportunities at the Greenbrier