Steady Nadal beats animated Kyrgios in 4 at Australian Open

1010 WINS Newsroom
January 27, 2020 - 7:10 am

Australia's Nick Kyrgios smashes his racket in frustration during his fourth round singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal left the muttering and the preening, the underarm serving and the 'tweening, to his younger, flashier opponent, Nick Kyrgios.

Surely, Nadal was content to collect the win in the latest installment of their rivalry.

The No. 1-ranked Nadal kept his thoughts to himself and limited his shot-making to the more traditional variety in an entertaining 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory over home-crowd favorite Kyrgios on Monday to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals and get closer to a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title.

“What can I say again about Nick? When he is playing like today, with this positive attitude, he gives a lot of positive things to our sport. So I encourage him to keep working like this,” Nadal said. “Honestly, he is one of the highest talents that we have on our tour.”

Here's how the elevated stakes and tension affected both men: At 5-all in the pivotal third-set tiebreaker, Kyrgios double-faulted. That offered up a gift-wrapped set point. But Nadal failed to take advantage because he double-faulted right back.

Still, two points later, the 23rd-seeded Kyrgios put a forehand into the net, and the set was Nadal's. Not long after, Kyrgios double-faulted again to get broken at love.

That put Nadal ahead 2-1 in the fourth, seemingly in charge.

“Against Nick,” Nadal would say afterward, “you are never (in) control.”

Sure enough, Nadal faltered while serving for the win at 5-4, double-faulting to create a pair of break points, the second of which Kyrgios converted with a jumping forehand and celebrated by throwing his head back and screaming. Spectators rose and roared and waved their Australian flags in support of the 24-year-old from Canberra.

“A scary game,” Nadal called it.

But he regrouped and pulled the win out in the closing tiebreaker, which ended with Kyrgios putting a forehand into the net.

Nadal was just the better player overall. One measure: Nadal finished with more than twice as many winners, 64, as unforced errors, 27.

Kyrgios delivered 25 aces and some memorable moments -- including walking out on court and warming up for the match in a No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey to honor Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star who died in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41.

“I wake up this morning with this terrible news. Super sad,” Nadal said about Bryant. “He has been one of the greatest sportsmen in history.”

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