MELBOURNE, Australia — World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has ended Nick Kyrgios’ Australian Open run, defeating the crowd favourite over four highly entertaining sets on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal, the 2009 champion at Melbourne Park, was required to produce some of his finest tennis, with the new-look Kyrgios refusing to give in and battling for every point in their fourth round encounter. But it still wasn’t enough for the Australian, and after three hours and 39 minutes on court, Nadal had sealed the deal – winning the match 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4).
“Against Nick you are never in control,” Nadal said after the match. “If you have mistakes, then he has the break and it’s so difficult to break him again.
“When he is playing like today, with a positive attitude, he gives a lot of positive thing to our sport. He’s one of the highest talents that we have on our tour and I like this Nick Kyrgios.”
Nadal seized the early advantage, breaking Kyrgios in just his second service game. Kyrgios had led it 40-15, but attempted two poor drop shots which backfired.
Nadal, the 19-time Grand Slam champion, pounced and went on to own the rest of the first set. He won 17 of 19 points when his first serve landed and 60 percent of the total points in the set, one he wrapped up in just 36 minutes.
But the match all turned in the first game of the second set. Kyrgios had returned to the court to serve first and was forced to endure a barrage from the Spanish legend.
The game lasted just shy of 10 minutes and featured three break point opportunities for Nadal, but Kyrgios found a way to stave them off and hold. Three games later he had carved out a break point chance of his own – one he took courtesy of a stunning lob which caught the baseline.
Suddenly, Kyrgios was playing like a man possessed. He quickly held to go ahead 4-1, and shortly after had squared the match at one set all.
The pair exchanged holds throughout a tense, yet high quality third set, a tiebreaker eventually required to decide it. Nadal lifted another gear in the race to seven points, while Kyrgios made a series of unforced errors which ultimately cost him the set.
Down again, for the second time in the match, Kyrgios’ spirit had been drained. Nadal was back on top and was showing no sign of slowing down. Meanwhile, Kyrgios was starting to feel the effects of his four hour and 30 minute third round match against Russian Karen Khachanov.
Nadal broke Kyrgios in the first game of the fourth set and although the Spaniard struggled to close out the match when serving for it at 5-4, he was still able to get the job done in another tiebreaker.
Nadal will face fifth seed Dominic Thiem — who earlier prevailed over Gael Monfils — on Wednesday for a place in the Australian Open semifinals.
“We know each other very well,” Nadal said of Thiem. “He’s a good friend on tour, a great character and a great fighter. It’s going to be tough one, but I really believe I am moving in the right direction this tournament.”