Brandon Nakashima: What you can learn for your tennis from the next-gen champion

Do you remember her from before?

The students who are still as a forest pond?

Sometimes you don’t realize they’re even sitting in the “U”.

But then the lesson comes to a halt.

The teacher asked a question that probably no student could answer. Then the student who you haven’t seen the whole time shows up.

As if out of nowhere, he gives the perfect answer and thereby advances the lesson.

When I first saw Brandon Nakashima , I immediately thought of this type of student.

He seems calm, inconspicuous, but determined.

He doesn’t just look like that. Brandon Nakashima also plays like this.

In this article, we’re going to get to know the person of Brandon Nakashima and – that’s the main part – see what you can learn from the NextGen Finals 2022 champion for your game.

That’s a lot, I can already anticipate that.

First, let’s look at Brandon Nakashima’s journey before becoming a champion at the NextGen Finals.

Are you in? Cool!

Who is Brandon Nakashima?
All personal information:

Right-handed, two-handed backhand
DOB: 8/2/2001, Brandon is from California
he is 188 cm tall
Brandon weighs 84 kg
Professional since 2019, plus a few more interesting facts
Coaches currently (as of March 2023): Franco Davin and Eduardo Infantino
does not pull the leg after the serve 😉
is the son of Wesley Nakashima and Christina Nakashima
Brandon has a younger brother: Bryce
Short insert:

Franco Davin is anything but an inexperienced coach. He has already coached and mentored the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Juan Martin del Potro , Fabio “I play when I feel like it” Fognini, Gaston Gaudio and for example Kyle Edmund.

Back to Brandon Nakashima.

He started tennis at the age of three.

He was probably sitting on the T-line and playing his forehands while seated 😉

Brandon is currently the youngest American in the top 50 in the ranking. He is a quiet character with a Buddhist disposition but is very self-confident . Brandon knows what he can do. He seems very confident on the court to me. We’ll also look at his psychological profile in a moment .

His favorite surface is clearly the hard court. Lawn also suits him and his style of play. On the other hand, he likes ash less.

This may be due to his rather slick playstyle.

Later more.

sampras neu
Nakashima had a successful junior career from 2017 to 2019. Brandon played collegiate tennis incredibly successfully and already showed there that his path should lead to the big stadiums of this tennis world.

Here are some interesting facts, stories and results from his college days:

Sommer 2019:

Continued to qualify for summer 2019 junior tournaments and moved up to 4th in the world junior rankings.
Reached the singles semifinals at the USTA Boys 18s National Championships and won the third place match. Brandon also finished second in doubles
Reached the Junior US Open semifinals in singles and quarterfinals in doubles
He reached the round of 16 in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles at the Junior Wimbledon Championships and the third round in singles at the Junior French Open

ACC Freshman of the Year. Brandon was only the sixth player in the history of this program to receive this honor
All-ACC First Team, the only freshman on the first team
ITA Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year
Finished the year with a 17-5 singles record, including a 3-0 win in the NCAA championship
In doubles he had a record of 20-3, winning 19 of those games with Henrik Wiersholm . The tandem won all four doubles games in the NCAA team tournament
Finished the season with an 8-0 record in doubles in ACC games
Made his college debut by defeating William & Mary’s Finbar Talcott 6-0, 6-3 on
ACC Player of the Week (February 12) after playing a key role in the Cavaliers’ 5-2 win over top seeded Wake Forest by defeating No. 21 Bar Botzer in straight sets. That same weekend, he also defeated Boston College’s Derek Austin in first place, inflicting Austin his first loss of the season 6-3, 6-2
ACC Singles and Doubles Player of the Week by singles wins vs. North Carolina. He and Wiersholm defeated the No. 28 seed duo of UNC to help UVA win a crucial double against the Tar Heels
Finished high school a semester early to enroll in Virginia in January
Still qualified (due to his age) for summer 2019 junior tournaments and was ranked #4 junior worldwide. Reached the third round at the Junior French Open
More background facts:

Brandon defeated world number one junior Chun Hsin Tseng to win the 2018 ITF Junior Masters Boys’ Singles Championship in Chengdu, China
He competed in three Junior Grand Slam tournaments in 2018, reaching the singles quarterfinals at the Junior US Open and the French Open and the doubles quarterfinals at Junior Wimbledon
To warm up for Wimbledon, he won the singles title at the 2018 Junior International Roehampton tournament
Brandon won the singles title at the International Spring Championships in Carson, California in April 2018
Runner-up at the National Boys 18 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
brandon nakashima
Ok, now we know:

Brandon hits the ball pretty clean.

He definitely stepped on the gas right away. Even as a very young player, he played a lot of competitive tennis. At least that’s what I gather from the facts we just went through.

This is something that also applies to you as a club player :

Play as many tournaments, as much competition (even if it’s just the season-opening ribbon tournament) as you can. Only by throwing yourself into the tournament fray over and over again will you become a better player under pressure.
Brandon Nakashima’s path shows that very well.

As a trainer for mental skills in tennis, one aspect should not be missing in this article:

What is Brandon Nakashima’s psychological profile?
He is fully aware of the work, sacrifices and setbacks that go into a successful tennis career.

Accordingly, he has an incredibly strong intrinsic motivation . He doesn’t play for money and fame. He plays for his potential and to realize himself on the tennis court. That is always the best drive.

Brandon describes himself as shy and introverted .

However, these qualities can bring quite big advantages in tennis. Shy people often weigh risks thoughtfully. You can think very well analytically. But in certain situations they lack the real bite, the decisive killer instinct.

Brandon seems to me like he already has his thoughts and emotions under control in the match . I think he is capable of very strong analytical thinking. He may not have fully developed this ability yet. I could see him as an excellent strategist in the future.

One who can adapt to the course of the match and the opponent’s style of play at any time.

That’s one thing you should practice as a club player, too.

You always play better when you can read the game, match history and how your opponent is playing.
Brandon played a lot of competitions early on.

He learned early on to experience defeats and to draw his lessons from them. This ability is one of the crucial ones when it comes to good and successful tournament tennis .

This doesn’t only apply to younger players, by the way 😉

My assessment of Brandon is that he wants to get a little bit better every day. He will work on his technique, his tactics and his attitude.

Your attitude is THE tool for you as a tennis player. Almost every success or failure in tennis can be traced back to the player’s attitude.

Brandon Nakashima presented a very good attitude at the next-gen finals in 2022. He played against the incredibly strong Jiri Lehecka in the final . We’ll come to the playful and tactical finesse of these two guys in a moment.

Brandon stayed uncharacteristically cool in this final for a player so young. He was able to fully accept the final. He was concentrated, focused and played “in the now”.

What is the difference between concentration and focus?
Your focus is your thought construct towards an outcome. For example: Win the next point. Or parry the breakball. Or serve your service game home confidently at 5:3.

Concentration is the skill that then guides you to your focused goals.
Brandon Nakashima implemented this mental game outstandingly in this final against a strong opponent.

Nakashima zu den NextGen-Finals:

“It can go either way in those shorter sets. If you lose a break, you move on to the next set. It takes away the element of trying to come back when you’re behind because it’s so difficult. It was a good one Experience for me to win in this format. Personally, I prefer the normal scoring format in tournaments, but it’s a good concept to try in the Next Gen Finals. The shorter sets are more entertaining for the fans.”
What type of player is Brandon Nakashima?
The game of Nakashima is characterized by one building block:


But not necessarily in the way you now suspect.

Let’s take a closer look.

Some time ago I wrote a whole article for Tennisnet about discipline in rallies.

Brandon lives this discipline .

But he is not a player who plays boring and monotonous. That’s another difference. I think he already has a certain sense of humor in his game. He knows the angles on the court, in the rallies. He varies his shots in a running rally.

Brandon plays with brains.

In men’s tennis, many players have incredibly hard shots. You can hit the ball a millimeter over the edge of the net with what feels like the speed of light.

But many lack the game intelligence – I think.

Few young players can really adjust their game over the course of a match. They hardly have a look for the opponent and how they play, what strengths and weaknesses they have. Sure, her groundstrokes are powerful and her physical fitness would make David Goggins green with envy.

But this concrete joke, I miss that a bit.

Let’s get back on topic.

Brandon Nakashima gives the opponent tasks.

What are the opponent’s tasks?
He has to solve problems. A moon ball player is the best example. He mercilessly spoons the ball up onto your backhand, just short of the baseline, for 120 minutes. So he asks you the question:

“Here, high and long – can you do that?”
You then have to solve this problem, in this case the high moon balls, with your gaming (and mental) skills. Not an easy story.

But Brandon Nakashima is definitely not a moon ball player. He plays flat, straight and hard over the net. So it is rather the complete opposite of a bringer.

Brandon says to his opponent with his game:

“Here, I’m playing long, safe and fast like clockwork. You have to find solutions now. Play faster, play more accurately or come to the net. I’ll continue to play my style and I won’t give you peace!”
Nakashima’s punches are unfussy. He plays the two-handed backhand and his forehand with little spin. That may be one reason why he has played his worst results to date on clay. On the other hand, his shots are more effective on hard court and also on grass.

Why isn’t his flat, straight, and unfussy game so effective on clay?

The clay court always slows down hard shots played with little spin. The tempo is not accepted that well. If you play with more spin, you give the clay court the chance to turn this spin into speed from the moment you bounce.

Incidentally, many young Americans, such as Taylor Fritz , play weaker on clay than on hard court.

What are the strengths of Brandon Nakashima’s game?
The final at the NextGen Finals in 2022 against Jiri Lehecka showed Brandon in top form.

He could easily keep up with Lehecka’s unbelievable pace. Brandon has tremendous stability in the shot. No matter how fast and long Lehecka played, Nakashima returned the ball flawlessly.

What exactly do I mean by flawless?
Brandon Nakashima took the pace of the Lehecka bullets, controlled the ball on his strings and played mercilessly consistently, just short of the baseline.

There is no question in my mind that Nakashima still has great potential . He’s far from fully mature as a player. His greatest strength, at least in my humble opinion, is controlling your opponent’s game. He is excellent at reacting to what the opponent is playing. If you give Brandon pace, he uses that pace.

If you give him spin , he gets that spin on the racquet controlled.

Basically, he can do any punch:

short cross
Another strength, which I mentioned a little above, is the calmness on the ball and the resulting consistency within a rally. By that I don’t mean the consistency over the match duration. That’s something completely different. His consistency within a rally was the decisive ability in the match against Lehecka.

The longer the rallies went, the more likely Brandon was to win those rallies.

Which leads us directly to its weaknesses.

fed cartoon
What weakness(es) does Brandon Nakashima’s game have?
Did you last see BVB’s game against Chelsea?

I’m talking about the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

BVB lacked killer instinct . An intangible lethargy ran through the performance of the entire team. With the exception of Marius Wolf on the right flank.

BVB just didn’t play necessarily.

I often feel the same way about Brandon Nakashima. He plays well, he has everything, he has a lot of potential in terms of his playing and mental skills. But somehow the last killer hit is missing.

The compelling element in an entire game.

Because he doesn’t have a real killer punch, he often can’t put enough pressure on his opponents. Especially under mental pressure. Imagine you are playing against Alcaraz and it’s 4:4 and 30:30 in the first set. Then you stand on the baseline and you know very well that every time you hit the ball that is too short, it means a winner for Carlos.

This is mental warfare through playful weapons.

Brandon is still missing this element in his game, at least up to now. In his match plan . I couldn’t say Brandon has a weak backhand or a weak forehand. Well, he can still get something out of the serve . It’s more his aura on the pitch that hasn’t given him the big, big breakthrough yet.

The same applies to Felix Auger-Aliassime, by the way.

I would like to take the Lehecka match as an example.

Nakashima was the disciplined player in the rallies. He could n’t play the ball any faster from shot to shot . He stayed calmer on the ball.

At some point, Lehecka overreacted. In the decisive moments – as so often – the player won with more security in the stroke.

But what happens when a type of player like Jiri Lehecka develops and learns to finish the rallies with his power tennis? How does a match go when a Lehecka stays on the ball cooler and maybe comes to the net at the right moment?

Then Nakashima will probably lose those matches.

The good Brandon is missing these very important weapons in his game. But if he integrates these into his game, then he will become an even more dangerous player type for many currently even better placed players.

What weapons could that be?

Ultra-aggressive forehand from the half field, or on shorter balls from the opponent
more angular play, even more playfulness. He definitely has the skills to do it. He would thus stand out even more from the unit Klopper mush of the other players
Chip n Charge – and other network attacks
If you can think of other possible strengths, please let me know in the comments below this article.

Okay, let’s see what’s in it for you.

What can you learn from Brandon Nakashima for your game?
We’ve talked about this in several places in this article:

Discipline in the rally.
The ability not to want to play the opponent’s ball faster than the opponent is playing it. This is a skill that many club players lack. But which would make many club players better players “overnight”.


You lack confidence in the match . You can only build self-confidence through so-called mini success stories. Mini success stories include five to seven successful shots between the T and baseline. In other words: Controlled security.
There is often talk of a controlled offensive on our tennis courts. Sure, that sounds cool and might be nice in theory. But does that also work for you in the match? Probably only on your best days.

So I find the idea of ​​controlled security much more effective.

What does controlled security on the court look like?
You are able to feel your shots so intensely on your strings that you can literally direct the ball. You will notice immediately after hitting the ball whether it is going wide or not. It’s not about playing every shot perfectly. It’s much more about feeling every shot perfectly.

Brandon Nakashima has definitely perfected this discipline.

Okay, dear tennis crack. Let’s capture what you can learn from Brandon Nakashima:

play a lot (a lot!) more competitive tennis
accept defeats, they are an important companion on your way to becoming a true champion
Consistency and discipline in rallies are strong skills
Don’t be fooled by your opponent’s quick shots. Return those balls more slowly
controlled security rather than controlled offensive

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