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Nadal wins, Kyrgios gets walkover to set up quarter-final showdown
Rafael Nadal battled past Reilly Opelka at the Indian Wells Masters on Wednesday to set up a meeting with familiar foe Nick Kyrgios, who advanced when Jannik Sinner withdrew due to illness.
It will be Rafael Nadal vs. Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.
From a mental standpoint, there is no matchup like the one with Nadal that gets Kyrgios going more. And he didn’t even have to hit one ball on Wednesday to book his spot alongside the 21-time Grand Slam champion in the last eight. Instead, the 26-year-old got a fourth-round walkover from Jannik Sinner — who was already feeling ill during his previous match against Benjamin Bonzi and could not recover in time to face Kyrgios.
Nadal had a much tougher day at the office. The Spaniard ran into Reilly Opelka, one of the two biggest servers on tour, and most definitely did not have an easy time of things even though the match ended in straight sets. After taking the first set in a tiebreaker, Nadal trailed by a break at 2-4 in the second and was one point away from falling a double-break down. But the world No. 4 managed to hold, broke back for 4-4, eventually forced another tiebreaker, and finally prevailed 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) after two hours and 11 minutes.
“I’m happy of course to be in the quarter-finals of this great tournament, playing better (than the first two matches) without a doubt,” Nadal assessed. “That’s my best match of the tournament. Happy the way that I was able to play during the whole match. I only played one bad game with myself. For the rest I think I played solid. I did what I had to do against a very difficult player to play like Reilly.”
Ninth meeting between Nadal and Kyrgios
Speaking of difficult players to play, Kyrgios is exactly that. You never know what you are going to get from him on any given day, but when the Aussie is motivated he is without question a top 10 talent.
Kyrgios is certainly looking motivated in the desert. Since receiving a wild card into the main draw, the world No. 132 has put emphatic beatdowns on Sebastian Baez, Federico Delbonis, and Casper Ruud. He lost a grand total of four games to both Baez (6-4, 6-0) and Delbonis (6-2, 6-2) before beating the eighth-ranked Ruud 6-4, 6-4.
There was no love lost between Kyrgios and Ruud, and the story will be the same against Nadal. They have faced each other eight times in the past and more than few of those contests have been filled with animosity.
And they haven’t been filled with as much success for Nadal as you might think. Kyrgios is a decent 3-5 lifetime in the head-to-head series, including 3-3 on surfaces other than clay. Kyrgios is 2-0 against Nadal on North American hard courts. However, the 21-time Grand Slam champion has gotten the best of their two most recent meetings. He triumphed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) at Wimbledon in 2019 and won by an almost identical 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) scoreline at the 2020 Australian Open.
“Nick is difficult in any conditions,” the 35-year-old said. “When he’s playing well and when he’s excited and motivated, he’s one of the toughest opponents without a doubt, no?
“Tomorrow going to be a tough match, but we are in quarterfinals of Indian Wells, Masters 1000. We can’t expect another thing, no? I have to expect a very tough opponent in front (of me)…. I hope to be ready for it. I need to play well and let’s see if I’m able to make that happen hopefully.”