Nakashima to face Lehečka in final at Next Gen Finals

MILAN (AP) — It was second time lucky for Brandon Nakashima at the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Nakashima fell at the semifinal stage last year but the American player stayed perfect this week when he beat third-seeded Jack Draper of Britain 4-3 (6), 1-4, 4-2, 4-3 (5) on Friday to reach the final, where he will face Czech player Jiří Lehečka.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the final tomorrow,” Nakashima said. “Last year I had a tough match in the semis but I think I’ve grown a lot as a player. I’m just happy to see all the hard work paying off.”

It was a hard-fought semifinal and Draper managed to save one match point with an ace to take the fourth set to a tiebreak. But Nakashima sealed the victory at the second time of asking when Draper sent a forehand wide.

The fourth-seeded Nakashima, who lost to fellow American and eventual runner-up Sebastian Korda last year, served 15 aces and saved five of the six break points he faced.

“Very tough match. I thought both of us were playing such high quality right from the beginning,” Nakashima said. “I had a match point but he hit a great serve and I couldn’t do anything about it so I’m just happy to have stayed focused in the tiebreak and super happy to close it out.”

Nakashima has won all four of his matches at the year-ending tournament for 21-and-under players, including a straight-sets victory over Lehečka in the group stage.

Dominic Stricker also won his three group stage matches in Milan but was eliminated by the fifth-seeded Lehečka earlier Friday.

Lehečka was dominant from the outset as he eased to a 4-1, 4-3 (4), 2-4, 4-1 victory in 82 minutes.

After dropping the third set, Lehečka broke Stricker in the opening game of the fourth and never looked back, sealing the match when Stricker hit a return wide.

This is the fifth edition of the event, which features shorter sets of first-to-four games and other experimental format changes. New rules include no changeovers after the first game of each set and only one sit-down per set after three games; a 15-second serve clock after aces, double-faults and unreturned serves; and coaching during an opponent’s medical timeout or toilet break.

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