The hyped Rafael Nadal – Nick Kyrgios Indian Wells quarterfinal lived up to the billing as the 21-time Slam winner had to dig deep to deny the Australian with a 7-6(0), 5-7, 6-4 victory Thursday afternoon.
A wobbly service game early gave Kyrgios a quick lead, but the Australian could close the opening set at the time of asking.
A frustrated Kyrgios dropped the opening set breaker at love courtesy of the verbal abuse.
Kyrgios, though, wouldn’t get down and go away. He kept cranking his serve while Nadal struggled on his delivery, and eventually it was Kyrgios with some incredible play to get a break and the set and force a third.
Kyrgios would miss on a break chance in the decider, but himself got rattled later double faulting to give Nadal the final break he needed. Rafa was able to camly serve it out at 5-4 to win his 19th straight match in 2022.
“I think for moments I played well,” Nadal said. “It’s difficult to play against him, always tough because he changes the dynamic of the point very quick and his serve is huge, especially the first serve.
“I think I played a good third set. Returning better. I was solid with the serve; I just suffered in one game with my serve. Nick is one of these kind of players that you’re going to have problems when he’s motivated.”
Nadal added that he made a tactical change late that helped cause the final Kyrgios double fault on break point.
“I decided to move in a little bit more, to try to change a little bit his visual position, try to create something different on him,” Nadal explained. “I think it worked. I was able to be quick with the hands, had some great returns on the first serve.
“It’s all about finding the solution in every moment. In this sport it’s not only about how you feel comfortable. It’s about how you can make your opponent feel uncomfortable, too.”
Kyrgios hadn’t dropped a set or even been pushed all week, and he could have at least closed out that first set.
“That one hit pretty hard. I felt like, honestly, I was the one to end the streak,” said Kyrgios.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Nadal will now face his heir apparent, Carlos Alcaraz, after a day off on Saturday in the semifinals. The 18-year-old Alcaraz used his mix of speed and power to take down the defending men’s champion Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4 to reach the first of what will be many Masters semifinals.
“It’s so special to be able to play my first masters 1000 semifinal here in Indian Wells, Tennis Paradise,” said Alcaraz.
Nadal hammered Alcaraz last year in Madrid, but the teen is a much, much better player now.
“It’s tough to play against him but he will enjoy. It’s not everyday you play against your idol. I’m gonna be happy even if I lose but the focus is to play my best and take my chances,” Alcaraz said.
Said Nadal, “I think he’s unstoppable in terms of his career. He has all the ingredients. He has the passion. He’s humble enough to work hard. He’s a good guy. He remembers me a lot of things than when I was 17 or 1-years old kid.”
Alcaraz is the youngest Indian Wells semifinalist since 17-year-old Andre Agassi in 1988.
Tomorrow, Taylor Fritz and Miomir Kecmanovic have a huge opportunity to reach a Masters semifinal, and for Fritz a second straight at Indian Wells.
Andrey Rublev will look to continue his win streak against Grigor Dimitrov. The Russian has won his last 12 matches including titles at Marseille and Doha.
FRIDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 12:00 noon
ATP –  A. Rublev vs  G. Dimitrov (BUL)
ATP – M. Kecmanovic (SRB) vs  T. Fritz (USA)
Not Before 6:00 PM
WTA –  S. Halep (ROU) vs  I. Swiatek (POL)
WTA –  P. Badosa (ESP) vs  M. Sakkari (GRE)
STADIUM 2 start Not Before 6:00 pm
ATP – [WC] J. Isner (USA) / J. Sock (USA) vs A. Golubev (KAZ) / A. Zverev (GER)
ATP – [PR] S. Gonzalez (MEX) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs  R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR)
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