Australia’s Nick Kyrgios first burst onto the scene during the 2014 Wimbledon round of 16 when he defeated then world no. 1 Rafael Nadal. Since that time the Spaniard and Australian have met on four more occasions with Nadal winning three matches and Kyrgios once.
Also since that time, Kyrgios has so often been talked about as the most talented player on the tour, yet his body or mind has frequently let him down at crucial times.
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Photo: Nick Kyrgios of Australia celebrates after winning his match against Rafael Nadal of Spain as part of the day 3 of the Telcel Mexican Open 2019 at Mextenis Stadium on February 27, 2019 in Acapulco, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Just last week a hobbled Kyrgios lost to Radu Albot and he was booed and heckled during that match, a match you would expect him to win.
Kyrgios is often seen as a big match player, he will lift his performance when he faces the big names in tennis. He had such an occasion in the second round at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco where he faced two-time champion and the no. 1 seed Rafael Nadal.
It was Nadal that won the first break of serve, coming in the sixth game to give Nadal a 4-2 lead. Kyrgios was up 40-15 before being a bit casual on the point that followed. He played a drop shot that Nadal ran down, Kyrgios then attempted a chip lob that Nadal lept up to hit away for the winner. On the next point Nadal leapt all over a mishit Kyrgios shot and hit it away for a winner and deuce. A double fault gave Nadal Ad then a volley that went wide from Kyrgios conceded the game.
After having dropped serve Kyrgios was bent over and showing signs of pain. Just what body part was hurting is always hard to know. Nadal would hold serve and not face a break point as he closed out the set.
In the second set it was Nadal that had four break point opportunities, however, he was unable to convert including from 0-40 in the ninth game of the second set. Kyrgios had just one look at a break point, also not converting. The players then found themselves in a tiebreak.
Kyrgios dominates tie-breaker
Kyrgios opened the breaker with an Ace down the T. The world no. 72 earned a mini-break on the next point when he hit a forehand winner to the open court. A down-the-line forehand winner followed to see Kyrgios jump out to a 3-0 lead with his two serves to follow. A Nadal shot that clipped the net and sailed wide saw Kyrgios three points from the set. Another point to Kyrgios and he was in control at 5-0.
Nadal would get back to 2-5 before a big serve that Nadal hit long and then a netted Nadal backhand gave Kyrgios the set.
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Photo: Rafael Nadal serving to Nick Kyrgios during their Mexico ATP 500 Open men’s single tennis match in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico. (Photo PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
Before the third set started Kyrgios was face down on the court to receive treatment on his lower back.
Nadal was eager to get on with proceedings and was pacing at the baseline as he waited to serve the opening game of the third set.
There were five break point opportunities in the final set, all going to Nadal, however, like in the second set Nadal was not able to convert.
Nadal opened the serving in the tie-break and it was a scrambling point that saw Kyrgios take a tumble as he stretched to play a shot that he would he long. Nadal missed an easy shot on the next point for 1-1. Nadal was on the run in the next point and eventually was forced into an error.
At 1-2 on serve Nadal fired a body serve at Kyrgios that he fended off his chest only to see it sail long. Nadal hit a forehand winner deep into Kyrgios’ backhand corner for 2-3 with Kyrgios serving. A mini-break came on the sixth point to see Kyrgios serving at 2-4. Kyrgios won the next point with a good volley to see Nadal serving the next two points at 4-3.
Kyrgios missed a cross-court shot that went wide to see Nadal out to 5-3. Nadal chased some huge shots from Kyrgios and eventually found the open court to setup three match points at 3-6 with Kyrgios serving. Kyrgios hit a jump drop shot to keep in the match at 4-6.
At 4-6 Kyrgios served an Ace only to see Nadal standing with his hand up. He would serve another first serve but missed landing it. The tension further increased as Kyrgios had to replace his racquet after a string had broken. On the point that followed Kyrgios hit a volley that clipped the net and landed just inside the sideline.
At 6-5 another match point was lost by Nadal when he missed a shot down the line that would have won the match.
The winners were 58 to 39 in favour of Kyrgios and errors went 17 to 49 with Nadal hitting less. The Australian fired down 21 Aces to eight and there were six double-faults from Kyrgios to three from Nadal.
With just over three hours on the clock, the double-fault that mattered the most came with Nadal serving at 6-6 in the third set tiebreaker after he had held three match points. His second serve hit the base of the net.
Kyrgios then stepped up to serve for the match with his lone match point. His first serve was less than a centimetre wide from being an Ace, but in the rally that followed Nadal would hit long to see Kyrgios fall to the court in triumph. A remarkable match with plenty of ups and downs.
“It’s massive. I’ve struggled a lot this year, so to be able to put in a performance like that against the No. 1 seed is pretty special,” said Kyrgios. “The level of tennis I played today is a good test for my body [and] just the way I competed, I left it all out there… It’s a massive confidence boost for me.”
Nadal takes a dig at Kyrgios
“He’s a player who has enormous talent, could be winning grand slams or fighting for the number one ranking,” Nadal said in Spanish.
“He lacks respect for the crowd, his opponent and towards himself.”
He went on to say: “I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but he lacks a little respect for the public and the rival.”
Stan Wawrinka is next up for Kyrgios. It remains to be seen just how will Kyrgios recover from an exhausting match against Nadal.
In other matches featuring Australian’s John Millman easily accounted for Peter Gojowczyk from Germany. Millman won 6-0, 6-2. Alex de Minaur had a walkover against Feliciano Lopez. The reason for Lopez withdrawing was listed as stomach pain.