A rather uneventful day in the Cincinnati men’s draw Friday finished with a loud, thunderous boom as Nick Kyrgios all but destroyed Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
“Being a little kid playing on centre court of Cincinnati against Nadal, that’s the way the best has to come out,” said Kyrgios.
Kyrgios, who lost to Rafa the last two times they played after beating him at Wimbledon, came out with a purpose and quickly blitzed Nadal breaking him twice to go up 3-0. The set was effectively over. Playing at hyper-speed and crushing forehands, crushings serves, Kyrgios raced to a 6-2 first set in 25 minutes.
Nadal had no answer early on. Had no read of Nick’s serve and standing back, standing up to return wasn’t making much of a difference. And on serve, he won just one single point of 8 on his second serve in the opening set.
In the second, just when it looked like momentum would change Rafa’s way, it didn’t. Thanks to two Kyrgios double faults, Nadal had 15-30 and then break point at 30-40 on the Kyrgios serve at 2-1 in the second, but Nadal couldn’t convert.
Then, as it happens so often, promptly Nadal dropped serve in the next game.
Kyrgios resumed his roll until he had to serve for it at 5-4. And the kid got tight and couldn’t close it right then. But inexplicably, Nadal was broken at love in the next game at 5-all and then Kyrgios cashed it in with a final ace to register his second win over Rafa and another Big 4 scalp.
“He obviously is a tough match always,” said Nadal. “Nick is a great player, but I played poorly. I started the match well and then I played a very bad game in the second set when he broke me. I played some good points. He had some mistakes and I was able to be back in the match. And then I played a terrible game. So it was a bad match for me. Congrats to him. That’s it.
“I love this tournament so much. It is improving every year. But I don’t know why I don’t find my rhythm here. It is tough for me to compete well here. But I’m going to keep trying next year.”
Kyrgios is into his second Masters semifinal and what’s scary is, before the match he even said on TV that he still wasn’t feeling 100%. Well, I’m sure he’s feeling better now.
Sure, Nadal was playing his second match of the day, but so too was Nick. And playing four sets or five shouldn’t be an issue.
Kyrgios moves on to meet another Spaniard, former finalist David Ferrer who got past No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3.
In the other semifinal, 2013 finalist John Isner will face 2016 semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov. Both had routine wins today over first-time Masters quarterfinalists.
Isner enjoyed his third straight American wildcard by beating Jared Donaldson 7-6(4), 7-5. Dimitrov overwhelmed Japanese No. 2 Yuichi Sugita 6-2, 6-1.
“It’s a good feeling, for sure,” Dimitrov said. “It’s a good feeling. I like playing in Cincinnati. I love that centre court, as well. I think all that brings me good memories and just a positive way of thinking when I come out there on the court.
“I think that was about it, to be honest. I didn’t think I did anything spectacular except playing the game the right way today. Just glad to get off court for about an hour. Save some energy and prepare for tomorrow.
“It was just one of those days that you just had to adjust to the conditions. I just had to adjust a lot to the conditions. It was pretty swirly out there. I knew what I had to do against him. From the first point, I think I was on top of the game. That carried me on throughout the whole match.”
Earlier, Nadal didn’t play his best but good enough to eliminated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(1), 6-2 while Kyrgios had to come from a set down and a mini-break down in the second set breaker to deny Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3.
So that leaves us with no Big 4 players in a Masters event for the first time since 2012 Paris which was won by Ferrer. And get used to it. They are old, they are injured and they are fading away.
As for Rafa, once again he just cannot get it done on hardcourts. Last year he got blown out by Borna Coric in Cincinnati. But then it was in part because of fatigue from the Olympics. This year? Playing two matches? No.
Rafa just has issues on hardcourts and faster surfaces where his serve, especially second serve, gets more exposed. And it’s the second half the year and that’s been the pattern. Therefore, my guess is something like this is going to happen to him at the US Open. Unless he has a truly gift of a draw, someone will get him.
As for tomorrow, it’s anyone’s guess. Only Ferrer has won a Masters before but if Kyrgios plays like he did tonight he should win the title. Then again, Ferrer is going to make Nick work and I don’t know how “up” Kyrgios will be for facing a Ferrer vs a Rafa.
“I’m not even looking ahead,” Kyrgios added. “Obviously tomorrow against Ferrer, it’s going to be a tough battle. He’s a great competitor. I don’t even know how long he’s been on tour for. Looks like he’s trying to find his range again. Looks like he’s playing much better now than he was last year.
“I know that he’s feeling confident. To beat Dominic in straight sets. He’s beat guys like Jack Sock the last couple of weeks, as well. He’s playing good tennis against good players. I know it’s going to be tough.”
In the first semi, Isner got that serve going and he’s been to a Masters final before, so I lean slightly his way. But Dimitrov should win it, though probably won’t.
“Moving on to tomorrow, I should be feeling good,” said Isner. “Just looking forward to that. Against Grigor, he’s playing well this week. He’s won some matches pretty easily. I think physically both of us should be coming into this match both feeling pretty good, not too haggard. We both should have a lot of confidence as well. So it’s going to be a tough match. Very well could be my toughest match. It’s one that I’m looking forward to and I know he is.”
Moving on, we’ll crown a new Cincinnati champion on Sunday.
SATURDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
WTA –  K. Pliskova (CZE) vs  G. Muguruza (ESP)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP –  J. Isner (USA) vs  G. Dimitrov (BUL)
Not Before 4:00 pm
WTA – [WC] S. Stephens (USA) vs  S. Halep (ROU)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs D. Ferrer (ESP)
WTA DOUBLES FINAL – S. Hsieh (TPE) / M. Niculescu (ROU) vs  Y. Chan (TPE) / M. Hingis (SUI)
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