Kyrgios Saves 3 M.P. In Drama-Filled Defeat Of Rafa
A second-round clash between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC had all the makings of a potential blockbuster, and it delivered just that on Wednesday in Acapulco.
In a match featuring incredible hitting and numerous twists, the Aussie saved three match points in the third-set tie-break to stun the top seed 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(6). He evened his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Nadal to 3-3 and picked up his first Top 5 win since defeating then-World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in the 2018 Brisbane International semi-finals.
“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.”
Kyrgios will now face Stan Wawrinka, who fired 32 winners to defeat seventh seed Steve Johnson 7-6(5), 6-4, and advance into his third quarter-final of the season. Wawrinka leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head with Kyrgios 3-2.
“It’s going to be incredibly tough. Another multiple Grand Slam champion who knows how to win matches,” said Kyrgios. “It looks like he’s coming into form again. His one-handed backhand is one of the best ever in the game [and] he’s a great competitor.“
Kyrgios arrived in Acapulco with a 2-3 record this season and an ATP Ranking that dropped to No. 72. But the Aussie is famous for bringing his best to the biggest stadiums against the world's best players, and an upset always is a possibility.
The Spaniard struck first after Kyrgios gifted a break of serve with a double fault and casual volley error, allowing Nadal to take a 4-2 lead in the first set. Nadal won 13 of the last 18 points in the set to grab the early advantage.
Kyrgios took a medical timeout after and it appeared he might retire, but the Aussie decided to soldier on. He showed plenty of trademark flashy play in the second set, striking the shot of the week in the fourth game with an incredible backhand slice winner, but also displayed plenty of heart. A wild ninth game saw Kyrgios save four break points to keep the match on serve.
The Aussie hit a purple patch in the tie-break and ripped a pair of winners from the baseline to earn a 3/0 mini-break. He continued to dominate the final minutes of the set and forced a decider.
Although Kyrgios received treatment on his lower back before the start of the third set, he continued to move swiftly around the court. He bravely saved five break points in an epic five-deuce game at 2-3 that, just to ensure it had everything, saw Kyrgios nearly win a point with an underhand serve. Both men continued to hold serve and fittingly force a third-set tie-break.
A forehand error from Kyrgios gave Nadal the mini-break to lead 4/3, and the top seed soon earned a trio of match points at 6/3. In classic Kyrgios fashion, he saved the first with a drop shot winner and the next with a volley that clipped the top of the tape. Nadal barely missed a backhand passing shot up the line to bring the tie-break to 6/6, then shockingly double faulted to give Kyrgios his first match point. The Aussie fell to his back in celebration after a backhand sent long by the Spaniard wrapped up the match after three hours and two minutes.