Nick Kyrgios started with a bang as he took Rafael Nadal to task at Indian Wells, but nothing ever comes easy from the Spaniard.
Nick Kyrgios was dialled in at the start of his quarter-final grudge match against Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells but his temper tantrums came back to haunt him as his opponent fought back.
Kyrgios peeled off some scintillating ground strokes and broke early in the first set, letting out a loud roar as he hit his stride.
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An underarm tweener serve — similar to the one he pulled off at this year’s Australian Open — didn’t quite work for Kyrgios this time, as Nadal responded with a forehand winner, but everything else the 26-year-old was doing paid off as he maintained his break advantage at 5-3.
Nadal held for 4-5 then pulled back a break of his own, an outrageous forehand helping him hit 5-5.
Tennis reporter Christopher Clarey tweeted: “Kyrgios serves for the 1st set. 30-30, Nadal hits an extraterrestrial forehand return deep off a 143 mile-per-hour (230km/h) first serve, then wins the point. Gets his first break point of the set and … converts.”
Kyrgios was seen complaining to his team that Nadal “is so lucky” as the 21-time grand slam champion stayed in the hunt for the opening set.
Kyrgios revved up the crowd when he won a crucial point in the next game as he made Nadal work for absolutely everything before the veteran held serve and edged ahead 6-5.
From here, the world No. 132 started to lose the plot, smashing a racquet and receiving a code violation — before offering his damaged equipment to a boy in the crowd.
Down 15-30, Kyrgios erupted verbally, letting everyone in the crowd know how unhappy he was with the change in direction the match had taken. But still he held on to send the set to a tiebreak.
Nadal was ruthless though, zipping to a 5-0 lead as Kyrgios’ temper got the better of him, repeatedly complaining throughout the breaker and having a go at someone in his player’s box.
At 0-6 Kyrgios received a point penalty for another code violation — because of an audible obscenity — to end the set in anti-climactic fashion.
“Nothing for him? Kyrgios was heard asking the umpire when he sat back down. “Why do you do that? Is that acceptable though?”
At the start of the second set it was a member of the crowd copping it from umpire Carlos Bernardes for his unruly behaviour.
“People want to watch tennis. You’re the only one who’s screaming like crazy,” Bernardes told the spectator as he called for quiet.
But nobody could drown out Kyrgios’ self-admonishment. “What am I doing?!” he yelled during the second game of the second set, as the match continued to slip away.
Kyrgios and Nadal have endured a sometimes bitter relationship on court. In 2019, the Spaniard accused the Canberra product of “lacking respect” after Kyrgios won a stormy encounter in Mexico. Kyrgios responded by claiming the Spanish world number two was “super-salty”.
They met again at Wimbledon that year, when Nadal won but fumed after the Australian appeared to spear a ball directly at him.
In all they’ve met eight times, with Nadal coming out on top in five of those encounters.
“Nick is difficult in any conditions, no?” Nadal said Wednesday after booking the last-eight match-up with a 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5) victory over Reilly Opelka.
“When he’s playing well and when he’s excited and motivated he’s one of the toughest opponents without a doubt.”
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