Nick Kyrios generally held it together until the end of the third set on Friday night against Roger Federer at the Miami Open, until yelling at spectators, a critical double fault in the third set break, then several racquet smashes on the court punctuated the meeting as the former No. 1 Swiss squeaked-out the win 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5) in 3 hours, 11 minutes.
“It was close from the beginning,” Federer said on court after the semifinal. “He’s such a good player so it’s fun playing against him…I kept fighting and believing and said, ‘Stay aggressive.’ It could have gone either way, it was a nail-biter and fun to play this way.”
The two have now played six sets career against each other, all decided in tiebreaks. And it comes after Federer just won a final set breaker yesterday over Tomas Berdych.
While Federer began the match quickly, Kyrgios stumbled but saved break points in both his first two service games. Then came a break for the Australian and he had the lead with the set on his racquet at 5-4. But a double fault put the match back on even terms. And after a scintillating breaker, Federer saved two Kyrgios set points and finally won it on his third 11-9.
Other than Federer mustering a couple break chances on the Kyrios serve, the second set was a serving fest until the breaker. Fed pulled ahead 3-1, Kyrgios fought back. Then Fed held match points at 6-5 and 8-7 but couldn’t convert and Kyrgios cracked an ace for the 11-9 second set.
With tensions mounting in the third, the serving continued. Federer was still virtually unchallenged on his serve while Kyrgios did have a few deuce games, but never faced a break point. In the breaker, it was Kyrgios going up 3-1 and then had two serves with the match on his racquet at 5-4. And he wouldn’t win another point as Fed closed the last three points, including a Kyrgios double, to take it.
“I feel like my level of tennis has always been high, but mentally I’m competing for every point now. That’s making the difference,” said Kyrgios. “I showed a lot of fight. Obviously I’m an emotional guy. I had some ups and up and downs, a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately I think I put in a good performance.
“I think I’ve made an effort to try and put in [the work] every day,” he added. “I’ve got a great team with me. Every day we’re on the practice court trying to have fun.”
Federer in the final will meet former No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who in the earlier semifinal navigated a tricky meeting against Italian Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5.
After getting pounded in the opening set, the Italian made a match of it in the second, saving crucial break points to ramp things up. But Nadal, who lost just nine points on serve, eventually broke through to take the match thanks to a Fognini double fault at 5-5. It was Rafa’s 8th win in 11 tries against Fognini.
“My serve worked well,” Nadal said. “I think I didn’t face a break point during the whole match, so that is something that I am very happy with. That gives you calm when you have opportunities on the return and you don’t convert.”
Nadal is 0-4 career in Miami Open finals after losing in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. It’s the third hard court final he’s reached this year. It’s the most finals he’s reached at any event without winning.
“He should have Miami titles, it’s going to be super-special playing him in the final,” Federer said of Nadal.
Nadal leads the career head-to-head with Federer 23-13, but the Swiss has won the last three meetings.
“I feel like there is a mountain to climb in Rafa. He’s hasn’t won this event before. He’s definitely feeling fresher than I feel right now. But that’s not a problem. I’ll be ready on Sunday,” said Federer. “It’s definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again. I’m thrilled for him that he came back as well as he did after the comeback and the struggles that he had last year. It feels like old times. We’re playing each other every week now. We can’t get enough of each other. Hopefully it’s not our last match.
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