Surface hardness of tungsten after high flux deuterium plasma exposure has been characterized by nanoindentation. The effect of plasma exposure was rationalized on the basis of available theoretical models. Resistance to plastic penetration is enhanced within the 100 nm sub-surface region, attributed to the pinning of geometrically necessary dislocations on nanometric deuterium cavities e signature of plasma-induced defects and deuterium retention. Sub-surface extension of thereby registered plasmainduced damage is in excellent agreement with the results of alternative measurements. The study demonstrates suitability of nano-indentation to probe the impact of deposition of plasma-induced defects in tungsten on near surface plasticity under ITER-relevant plasma exposure conditions.