Rafael Nadal Ousts Kyrgios In Thrilling Australian Open Grudge Match - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Ousts Kyrgios In Thrilling Australian Open Grudge Match

The night-time clash started with Kyrgios paying tribute to Kobe Bryant, but it was Nadal who came out on top.

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World No.1 Rafael Nadal is through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after battling his way past a determined Nick Kyrgios on Monday.

 

The highly anticipated showdown lived up to expectations as Nadal rallied to a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4), win over the former top 20 player. Emulating his four-sets win over Kyrgios that occurred in the second round of Wimbledon last year. In their latest clash, both players illustrated glimmers of their best tennis as they battled through their nerves. Although it was Nadal who came out on top in their latest encounter.

“It has been a very tough match. It seemed like at the beginning I was in control a little bit, but against Nick you are never in control because if you make a mistake like I did during the second set he has the break and  it is so difficult to break him.” Nadal said during his on-court interview.

Historically the relationship between the player’s have been far from straightforward. Nadal has previously criticised Kyrgios for his at times controversial behaviour on the tour. Meanwhile, Kyrgios once accused him of being a ‘super salty loser.’ Although both have since played down their spat. There would be no further breakdown in relations during what was a relatively peaceful clash on Monday evening in Melbourne. The 222-minute showdown saw the top seed hit 64 winners to 27 unforced errors. Compared to Kyrgios’ tally of 50 and 43.

With a place in the quarter-final of a grand slam at stake, Kyrgios began his quest with a touching tribute. Taking to the court for his showdown, he walked into the arena wearing an LA Lakers top in memory of Kobe Bryant. The NBA superstar who was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.

Meanwhile, Nadal also paid tribute to Bryant following his pulsating win on the Rod Laver Arena.

“He always wanted more, he always wanted to increase his level. He was an inspiration for the world of sport. Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and our minds for the rest of our lives.”

The match

Early on Kyrgios looked lethargic on the court and lacked intensity in his shot-making. Enabling the world No.1 to break four games into the match and subsequently take the first set with relative ease.

Despite taking an early stronghold, Nadal soon came under pressure from the world No.26, who he lead 4-3 in their head-to-head prior to their latest clash. Kyrgios’ turn to strike saw him elegantly hit a winning forehand shot to break for a 3-1 lead in the second frame. Gaining in momentum and raising the decibel levels around the Rod Laver Arena, he went on to level the match by closing the second set with two consecutive aces out wide.

Nadal is no stranger to fighting back against Kyrgios after dropping a set during two out of his four previous wins over him. Despite Nadal’s list of achievements that include a record 12 French Open titles, he struggled to tame his fiery rival. The third set was a cat and mouse chase will no breaks of serve heading into a crucial tiebreaker dominated by nerves.

The top seed looked to be in full control of the tiebreaker with a 4-1 lead in his favour. However, a forehand shot into the net from Nadal enabled Kyrgios to break back and eventually draw level at 5-5. The drama didn’t stop there. A Kyrgios double fault handed the Spaniard set point and a chance to restore his lead.  Something Nadal failed to do after he also hit a double fault. Nevertheless, he prevailed on his second opportunity with the help of a forehand shot from his rival slamming into the net. Making it the third consecutive time Nadal has won a tiebreaker against Kyrgios on the tour.

After issuing his latest blow to Kyrgios, the 33-year-old rapidly gained in momentum against his faltering rival. Three games into the fourth set, a lacklustre service game from Kyrgios enable him to break for only the second time and extend his lead further.

However, there would be another twist to the match. Serving for a place in the last eight at 5-4, a tense Nadal faltered at the worst possible moment. Handing the break back to Kyrgios. A true testament to the resilience he demonstrated throughout. With all to play for it would be another tiebreak that would separate the two. Which Nadal eventually prevailed in after a Kyrgios forehand slice ploughed into the net to secure his victory.

“He played a good game. I played a scary game when leading 5-4 (in the fourth set).” Nadal reflected after.
“That’s part of the game. I accept that and I tried to recover mentally. I tried to find again the level of tennis before the tiebreak.”

Praise for Kyrgios

Through to the quarter-final of a major four the 41st time in his career, Nadal paid tribute to Kyrgios’ performance. Publicly encouraging the controversy-hit player to maintain his commitment to the sport.

“When he’s playing today with a lot of positive attitude he gives a lot of positive things to our sport.” He said.
“I encourage him to keep working like this because he is one of the highest talents that we have on the tour and I like this Nick Kyrgios during the  tournament.”

Nadal, who hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2009, is through to the last eight in Melbourne for the 12th time in his career. His reward will be a showdown with Dominic Thiem, who downed Gael Monfils in straight sets earlier in the day.

“It will be tough. We know each other very well.” Nadal said of Thiem.
“He’s a great fighter and hits the ball very strongly. I’ve seen him play very well (against Monfils) so it’s going to be a tough one.”
“I know I need to play my best but I really believe I am moving in the right direction.”

Nadal leads Thiem 9-4 in their head-to-head.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gilles Simon and Felix Auger Aliassime reach the the semifinal in Marseille

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Defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Vasek Pospisil 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 17 minutes to reach the semifinal at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Both players stayed neck and neck until 5-5, before Tsitsipas earned his first break, when Pospisil hit a backhand long. The Greek star wrapped up the first set with an ace after 45 minutes.

Tsitsipas claimed his second break at 3-3 with a backhand return and reeled off 10 consecutive points to seal the second set 6-3.

Tsitsipas fired 8 aces and won 26 of his 30 first service points.

“It was not easy. I knew I would have to fight and be dynamic. He plays a very aggressive brand of tennis, so every point has to be treated respectfully. I played with passion and patience, and my fighting spirit, when I am in the right zone. It means good things can happen”, said Tsitsipas.

Gilles Simon cruised through to an upset 6-4 6-0 win over Danil Medvedev to advance to the semifinal. Simon converted five of his six break point chances and lost his serve only once.

The French veteran will take on Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Egor Gerasimov 7-5 6-2. The young Canadian star broke serve four times and and won 83 % of his first serve points.

Gerasimov earned an early break in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead, but Auger Aliassime came back by winning two consecutive games to win the opening set 7-5. Auger Aliassime converted his fourth break point in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead and sealed the second set with another break in the eighth game.

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Alexander Bublik reaches his third career semifinal with win over Denis Shapovalov in Marseille

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Alexander Bublik reached the third ATP Tour semifinal of his career after beating Canadian Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov 7-5 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Bublik fended off a total of four break points in the first set, including three chances from 0-40, got the break in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5, when Shapovalov hit a forehand volley wide at 30-40 after 45 minutes.

Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Bublik did not convert three break points at 3-2, when he hit a forehand into the net on his first break point chance. Shapovalov broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead with a drop shot and wrapped up the second set with his third ace.

Bublik opened up a 2-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Shapovalov broke straight back in the third game. Bublik got another break lead in the eighth lead at 15, when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide. Bublik sealed the win with a hold at love.

“He is a great player and serve. It was our first match, but I have known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I am very happy”,said Bublik.

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Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe and Ugo Humbert reach the quarter final in Delray Beach

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Milos Raonic hit 11 aces and saved the three break points he faced to beat German Cedrik Marcel Stebe 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 36 minutes reaching the quarter final at the Delray Beach, an ATP Tour 250 tournament.

 

Raonic earned a break in each set. Stebe earned a break point in the ninth game with a forehand down the line, but Raonic saved it with a forehand. Raonic faced two more break points in the 11th game, but Raonic saved them with service winners. Raonic earned a break with a forehand down the line winner in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5. Raonicwon four consecutive points on return to earn a break and closed out the match 6-3 with a hold of serve.

“I got lucky through that first set and then I tried to be a bit more aggressive, create more things and that put a bit more pressure on him. It opened up the match for me a bit more”, said Raonic.

Raonic set up a quarter final against Steve Johnson, who edged past his compatriot Jack Sock 6-4 5-7 6-1 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach his first quarter final at ATP Tour level in six months. Johnson came back from losing the second set by racing out to a 5-0 lead.

“This is just one of those tournaments where you feel comfortable coming back every year. It’s great to see Sock back. I thought he played a really good second set and I just got bit of a momentum in the third set”, said Johnson.

French Next Gen player Ugo Humbert edged Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 42 minutes to reach his third quarter final in 2020. Humbert fended off eight of the ten break points he faced and earned three breaks to win the last four games of the first set from 2-4 down. Humbert broke Kecmanovic, as the Serbian player was serving for the second set at 6-5. The Frenchman saved a set point and came back from 5-6 down by winning the final three points of the tie-break to clinch the win after 1 hour and 43 minutes. Humbert has improved his win-loss record this year to 8-3.

“It’s always tough to play against Miomir, because he is a great player. He always plays at a high level. I lost to him last week and I was a little bit stressed before the match, so I am very happy to get the win today. You have to enjoy the victory because it’s not easy every week. Winning in Auckland gave me a lot of confidence. I beat some great players, but I have to continue my improvement every day”,said Humbert.

Humbert will face US player Frances Tiafoe, who battled past Tommy Paul 7-5 7-6 (7-4). Both players stayed neck and neck in the first set until the 11th game when Tiafoe earned a break with a return winner. He served out the set 7-5 with a service winner in the 12th game.

Paul earned a break in the sixth game, but he dropped his serve, while he serving for the set at 5-3. Tiafoe closed out the match with a backhand crosscourt winner at 6-4 in the tie-break.

“It’s never easy playing a good friend. It’s awkward, but I thought it was a pretty good match overall. My forehand was definitely on, so that helped. I am starting to play good tennis again and just competing hard in every match”,said Tiafoe.  

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