Federer Beats Kyrgios After Three Hours, Three Tie-Breaks
Fourth seed survives epic match under the lights on Friday
Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios may have opposite temperaments and playing styles, but they came together to put on one of the finest matches of the year on Friday at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Federer saved set points, Kyrgios saved match points, but it was the fourth seed who ultimately came out on top over Kyrgios in their semi-final clash 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5).
“It did feel very good, because you don't very often play three breakers in a match. It's nice to win those and winning breakers is always such a thrill,” said Federer. “It's great winning this way, especially because I remember the loss against him a few years ago, It was rough. It was the birthday of my boys. I wasn't with them and had that match, so it was nice to get this one tonight.”
“I feel like there is a mountain to climb in Rafa. He's hasn’t won this event before. He's definitely feeling fresher than I feel right now. But that's not a problem. I'll be ready on Sunday,” said Federer. “It's definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again. I'm thrilled for him that he came back as well as he did after the comeback and the struggles that he had last year. It feels like old times. We're playing each other every week now. We can't get enough of each other. Hopefully it's not our last match."
Federer and Kyrgios have played six consecutive tie-breaks in their two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with the rivalry now tied at 1-1. This is the seventh time (5-2) that Federer has played all tie-breaks in best-of-three set matches in his career. This was also the third time that Federer has won back-to-back third set tie-breaks in the same tournament (2005 Dubai, 2001 Rome).
A standing-room only crowd came out to watch two of the most exciting players on the ATP World Tour in Federer and Kyrgios do battle, and they weren’t shy about letting their feelings be known. Whether it was giving a standing ovation for a between-the-legs winner from Kyrgios or chanting Roger’s name, their enthusiasm prompted the umpire to call for quiet on multiple occasions during the match.
Kyrgios appeared frustrated early on by Federer’s brilliant hitting and displayed huge bursts of emotion on multiple occasions, but remained calm when it mattered most, saving set point at 5-6 with an ace and two more in the tie-break at 5/6 and 6/7 with some big hitting. Federer also showed off his trademark steely nerves in the tie-break, saving a set point at 7/8 and again at 8/9 with a backhand winner down the line.
However, the Aussie’s penchant for going for broke at crucial moments of the match may have cost him the opening set. He rolled the dice on a big second serve at 9/9 and missed badly, handing Federer a third set point opportunity. The Swiss star made good on his chance, wrapping up the set as Kyrgios sent a backhand into the doubles alley.
Even while Federer and Kyrgios traded routine service holds in the second and third sets, there were still plenty of flashy moments from both players, including Kyrgios charging the net off Federer's serve on a few occasions. There was even a between-the-legs winner from the Aussie in the second set.
The drama remained at maximum levels in the second-set tie-break, with a slice backhand from Federer on match point at 6/5 floating just long as Kyrgios could only stand at the net and watch. On his second match point at 8/7, Federer dumped an 88 mph second serve into the bottom of the net as the crowd groaned in unison. Kyrgios wouldn’t allow Federer another opportunity, firing an ace at 10/9 and looking to his box in celebration at leveling the match.
More comfortable service holds in the third set fittingly resulted in a sixth straight tie-break for Federer and Kyrgios, with the crowd on their feet to applaud the efforts of both players. Their previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in Madrid in 2015 also produced a similar scoreline, with Kyrgios saving two match points to take a 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) victory.
However, Kyrgios didn’t learn his lesson from the first set of the Miami brawl with Federer, gambling with a 128 mph second serve at 5/5 and ultimately hitting a double fault for his most costly shot of the night. Kyrgios’ risk proved to be Federer’s reward, with the fourth seed hitting a big first serve to wrap up the match in three hours and 10 minutes.
Despite the loss, Kyrgios said there were plenty of positives to take from his match with Federer and fortnight in Miami.
“I feel like my level of tennis has always been high, but mentally I'm competing for every point now. That's making the difference,” said Kyrgios. “I showed a lot of fight. Obviously I'm an emotional guy. I had some ups and downs, a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately I think I put in a good performance.
“I think I've made an effort to try and put in [the work] every day,” he added. “I've got a great team with me. Every day we're on the practice court trying to have fun.”