Nadal too tough mentally, battles past Kyrgios in three sets to reach Indian Wells semis

Rafael Nadal remained undefeated this year by beating Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells Masters on Thursday. Nadal is two wins away from a third career title in the desert.

Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022 Rafael Nadal, Indian Wells 2022 ┬ę Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

ATP Indian Wells Masters 1000 | Results | Schedule

Rafael Nadal is admittedly not at his very best at the BNP Paribas Open.

Despite that, nobody has been able to beat him — not in Indian Wells and not anywhere else this season.

Nadal improved to 19-0 for the 2022 campaign when he beat Nick Kyrgios 7-6(0), 5-7, 6-4 in the quarter-finals on Thursday afternoon. The Spaniard triumphed after two hours and 46 minutes to set up a semi-final showdown against compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who defeated defending champion Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-3.

Having already played a lot of hard-court tennis this year and with his lingering foot issue seemingly a bit of a problem in Indian Wells, Nadal is not in the same kind of ruthless form that propelled him to a second Australian Open title. But he is getting by thanks to his typical tenacity and mental toughness. Case in point: Nadal trailed Sebastian Korda by a double-break at 5-2 in the third set of their second-round match last Saturday only to storm back and prevail in a tiebreaker.

That [loss] hit pretty hard, I felt like, honestly, I was the one to end the streak.

Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios never had the 20-time Grand Slam champion on the ropes quite like Korda did, but it was without question a contest that he could have won. The 26-year-old Aussie was simply undone by mental lapses late in both the first and third sets — something that certainly isn’t new for him. Kyrgios failed to serve out the opener at 5-4 and then lost it in a tiebreaker without winning single point. It ended on a point penalty when the world No. 132 incurred a second code violation for an audible obscenity. In the third, he double-faulted on break point at 3-3 and that proved to be the final momentum swing.

“That [loss] hit pretty hard,” Kyrgios commented. “I felt like, honestly, I was the one to end the streak. I felt like I was playing well. I felt like I did everything right in the first set that I planned to do. I sat down with my coach, myself, and I had a game-plan, and everything was working. Two points away from the first set, I don’t know how he got out of that game…. 5-4, 30-15 — just kept replaying that point over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

“I was competing, competing, somehow snagged the second and a couple points in the third that just, a couple break points…. One of them I couldn’t do anything on and two I just missed a backhand by who knows — three inches. That’s all it is against Rafa all the time.

“I mean, he’s too good, I guess. He played a few points well and he got out of it and that’s what he does. That’s what makes him great.”

I [held it together] emotionally and mentally.

Rafael Nadal

It is one sign of a great player when he is winning even when not at his best, and that is what Nadal is doing in the desert. That’s not to say 35-year-old didn’t play a good match. He did. You have to if you want to beat a motivated Kyrgios.

“It was a good tennis match, I think,” Nadal assessed. “I’m happy to win, of course. Being in the semifinals is great news for me again. Yeah, (I’m) happy about that third set because it wasn’t easy after the end of the second. But I [held it together] emotionally and mentally. I think I was ready to keep fighting.”

He always is. And that fighting spirit has him two wins away from a fourth title in a row.

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