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Kyrgios rides rollercoaster in Nadal loss

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Rafael Nadal has overcome Nick Kyrgios in a drama-filled and tightly fought Indian Wells Masters quarter-final, continuing the Spaniard’s perfect start to 2022.

The 21-time major winner prevailed 7-6 (7-0) 5-7 6-4 in the California desert, keeping his cool during a typically turbulent encounter with the Australian.

Kyrgios battled not only the Spaniard but his own temperament, the crowd and umpire Carlos Bernardes during the two hour and 45 minute marathon.

With comedian actor Ben Stiller in the stands, Kyrgios rebuked one fan asking them “are you good at tennis, why are you speaking?” before pointing to Stiller saying, “I don’t tell him how to act”.

The tense third-set exchange came before Kyrgios dropped his serve in the seventh game, allowing Nadal to stream to victory, ending a mighty tussle.

Kyrgios, the world No.132 and needing a wildcard to enter, made a mockery of his lowly ranking from early, breaking Nadal first and lengthening his run to 30 straight service holds at the tournament.

The 26-year-old fumed as he missed his chance to serve out the first set, smashing two racquets – handing the second to a child in the crowd.

After forcing a tiebreak, he lost it to love, handing Nadal the set with a code violation.

Kyrgios snapped back at an abusive crowd member as he waited for quiet on his serve, drawing the point penalty.

“When you do that I need to penalise you because it’s too loud,” umpire Bernardes told Kyrgios, who shook his head as he replied “unbelievable”.

The circus atmosphere required another intervention from Bernardes, who leaned out of his chair to address one man, saying: “There are 10,000 people who want to watch tennis here and you’re the only one who wants to scream like crazy. Please.”

On the court, Kyrgios gathered his composure, closing out service games and disguised drop shots as he led 6-5.

At change of ends, he kept engaging Bernardes on the raucous crowd, saying: “You see how it affects the players? You don’t protect the players from any of that stuff.”

After levelling his head, he also levelled the match with another piece of magic, slipping on his way to reach a drop shot before scrambling an overhead to win the second set.

The momentum was Kyrgios’ in the third, with Nadal holding serve with unchacteristic sloppiness in the opening games.

That all changed as the Australian’s head appeared turned by the crowd during the final games.

Nadal’s victory was his 19th in succession this year, a run which has brought ATP titles in Melbourne and Acapulco and a record-breaking 21st slam at the Australian Open.

He marches on at Indian Wells, where he can improve to be world No.3 with a title, and will play either Carlos Alcaraz or reigning champion Cameron Norrie in the semi-finals.

While Kyrgios fell short against Nadal, he will leap in the rankings after a productive tournament, projected to be world No.101 by week’s end.

Kyrgios, a wildcard entry, beat Sebastian Baez, Federico Delbonis and world No.8 Casper Ruud en route to the quarter-finals, all in straight sets, also benefitting from a walkover from Janek Sinner.

– AAP

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