By Richard Osborn
San Diego, CA–It’s only fitting that the San Diego Open ATP 250 should come down to a battle between two Californians: one a hometown favorite, who came of age on these very same Barnes Tennis Center courts; the other who made a name for himself just up the I-5 at UCLA, where he claimed college tennis’ ultimate prize.
The San Diegan Brandon Nakashima keeps charging toward what could be the ideal homecoming. Building on a summer that saw him post career-best showings at both Wimbledon and the US Open, the 21-year-old ousted surprise semifinalist Christopher O’Connell of Australia, No. 130 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, 6-4, 7-6 (3), on Saturday in one hour and 50 minutes.
“No better place to do it than my hometown,” said Nakashima, whose family and friends have been in the stands throughout the tournament. “I’m really excited about it. I’ve had a great week. I feel confident in my game right now. I could feel the support out there from the very first point.”
The fifth seed Nakashima would save the only two break points he faced, and won 40 of 48 first-serve points (83 percent).
“I knew I had to serve well,” Nakashima added. “That affects the rest of my game, off the ground and on my returns. I tried to make as many first serves as possible, and be aggressive off the first ball.”
There were times when, after undergoing right (2015) then left (2016) hip surgery that Marcos Giron considered walking away from the sport altogether. It’s a good thing he opted to stick around. Seeded at a tour-level event for the first time, the former Bruin — the 2014 NCAA singles titlist — finds himself through to the first ATP final of his career, a 6-3, 7-5 winner over top seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain.
It marked the No. 3 seed’s first win over the 25th-ranked Evans in three career head-to-heads.
“Everyone’s got their own pace, but I’m so happy to finally be in an ATP final, especially here in San Diego. It’s incredible,” said the Thousand Oaks native, who smacked eight of his 11 aces in the second set and finished with 40 winners to just 13 unforced errors. “Being a Southern California guy, playing here growing up, it’s kind of full circle.”
The 32-year-old Evans’ two-week, Flushing Meadows-to-Glasgow-to-San Diego odyssey may have caught up with him in the end. He had yet to drop a set in his first two matches and is now 3-8 in tour-level semifinal appearances.
“Coming into this, I knew it was going to be a really tough match,” said Giron, 29. “I came in doing a good job under pressure. I just want to keep that going, really believe in myself, back myself. Ultimately, that’s what got me the win today.”
San Diego Open – September 24 results
Men’s Singles Semifinals
 M. Giron (USA) d  D. Evans (GBR) 63 75
 B. Nakashima (USA) d C. O’Connell (AUS) 64 76(3)
Men’s Doubles Semifinals
 N. Lammons (USA) / J. Withrow (USA) d [WC] B. Klahn (USA) / F. Verdasco (ESP) 26 76(3) 10-6
J. Kubler (AUS) / L. Saville (AUS) d [PR] M. Demoliner (BRA) / M. Melo (BRA) 76(4) 64