Rafael Nadal ‘s 2022 goes from lesson to lesson. In the quarterfinals of the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells , the Spanish idol demonstrated his status as the best player in history to knock down ( 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 ) a huge Nick Kyrgios , all self-confidence, madness and talent , in a marathon for which, even diminished, only Rafa was prepared to win with the sobriety that he did. Responding to each blow that staggered him in the match, Nadal recovered from a first break, a near comeback and, again, foot discomfort to get a ticket to the semifinals in California, where defending champion Cameron Norrie awaits him or his successor Carlos Alcaraz .
The morbid duel in Indian Wells came in the quarterfinals, with an unbeaten Rafael Nadal in 2022, always exemplary in his behavior and sometimes critical of the great villain of the circuit. Nick Kyrgios , opposite, arrived in the penultimate round in one of his worst moments in terms of individual ranking –132 in the ATP–, but spurred on by the good performance in California and backed by a tennis talent that was never in doubt.
The pending accounts between the two presaged a lively duel and Kyrgios began hitting, although in tennis. With sticks from all sectors of the back of the court, the Australian would break Nadal ‘s serve, somewhat clueless from the start and overcome by the heterodoxy and ability to hit winners of his rival, who was also quite focused and made few unforced errors.
Kyrgios ‘ staging was unbeatable and had surprised Nadal, whose reaction was not going to take long, raising the level of service, one of the great secrets of his excellent performance in 2022, and beginning to threaten the rest. The points were equal but Nick’s serving power made the difference…until the tenth game.
Once there, ready to close the first round in his favor, the Australian saw Nadal take the lead and at the first break point, in the game and in the match, the man from Manacor put the tables on the scoreboard to the joy of the public. Kyrgios did not take it so well, and there began his classic short circuit that would end up costing him the set.
Nadal strikes, Kyrgios reacts
Kyrgios hustled and made it to sudden death, but his head wasn’t in the right place. Nadal, in the tie-break, sublimated his tennis and improved if possible the version experienced against Opelka in the same matches. The Balearic added all the points one by one and closed the set with a donut with the help of Nick, who put the seal with his second warning of the clash for verbal abuse of a Rafa fan.
Nick ‘s show had begun, but his tennis did not abandon him in a second set in which he would find his magic shots again, with the drop as a differential element to, together with the serve, stay in the match against a great Nadal . The games went by without either of them going bankrupt, completing one of the great Masters 1000 battles so far thanks to mutual talent.
A true luxury in the form of an exchange of styles for the Californian public, who wanted more and got an extra thanks to Kyrgios being the one who took advantage of Nadal ‘s mistake to close the second set 7-5. Two hours into the game and the decision went to the third and final set. Nadal seemed to have the losing side, with sporadic foot complaints and Nick unleashed as evidenced by his volley in the last point of the set, a mix of physical and technical supremacy.
The story of the third began written by Kyrgios , unstoppable on serve and about to break Rafa in the first turn. Drawing strength from weakness and a courage that only he can bring to the maximum expression on a tennis court, Nadal recovered to raise his serve, undermining the morale of a rival increasingly aware of what was happening in the stands. This element served for the disconnection in the first service, weapon of mass destruction of the Aussie bomber, who without his serve is left naked before the best of the circuit.
Nadal could not break the first, but he could break the second, in the seventh game, and from there finish weaving the last touches on his victory, the nineteenth of 2022 without failure, more meritorious than almost none -Medvedev already height of Korda or Shapovalov – in a marathon of almost three hours that launches him to the semifinals of Indian Wells.