Winter Nationals Week
Top Seeds Nakashima, Blake Take Winter Nationals 16s
by Gary Curreri
, 5 January 2017
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Inclement weather failed to put a damper on the week for San Diego, California's Brandon Nakashima and Boca Raton, Florida's Angelica Blake who both blitzed through the 16s competition in winning the USTA National Winter Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Nakashima, 15, downed Tyler Stice
(Atlanta, Ga.), 6-2; 6-4 in the finals of the Boys' 16s to capture his first singles gold ball, while Blake topped Dasha Kourkina
(Brooklyn, N.Y.), 7-6(4); 6-0 to win the Girls 16s title and her first singles gold ball.
Nakashima, the top seed, cruised to the title as he won all but one set all week. He lost the first set 6-4 to J.J. Mercer (Huntington, W.Va.) before rebounding to win the round-of-64 match 6-1; 6-2. He won in straight sets in every other match - including the championship match.
"It was my first singles gold ball, so that is pretty exciting," said Nakashima, who also has a gold ball in doubles. "I was really happy to win. This tournament is just another learning experience, and now I know that I can play well in dealing with the pressure of being the number one seed."
After winning the first set in the final, Nakashima went up 3-0 in the second before Stice started to rally.
"After I won the first set, I was thinking about it too much, and I was getting a little nervous," Nakashima added. "I kept moving and eventually won it."
A blue chip prospect, Nakashima is ranked sixth nationally and third in California. He is a sophomore at High Bluff Academy, a private school in San Diego with less than 100 students.
"The week was pretty long and tough," Nakashima said. "There were a lot of good players in this tournament. The weather was pretty difficult - always waiting for the updates about when the matches were going to go on."