INDIAN WELLS: Nick Kyrgios overpowered Novak Djokovic for the second time in as many weeks on Wednesday to book an Indian Wells quarter-final against Roger Federer, who swatted aside old foe Rafael Nadal. Kyrgios put on another stellar serving display in a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) triumph that ended three-time defending champion Djokovic’s 19-match winning streak in the first Masters tournament of the year.
Federer, who added another chapter to a storied rivalry with Nadal with an epic Australian Open triumph in January, dismantled the Spaniard 6-2, 6-3. It was the first time since their first meeting in 2004 that Federer and Nadal had met before the quarter-finals of a tournament. An oddity of the rankings had them and Djokovic-with 44 Grand Slam titles among the three of them-all grouped in the same quarter of the draw.
Djokovic was the first to fall, in the face of relentless aggression from world number 16 Kyrgios. “The run was amazing,” said Djokovic, who also won in Indian Wells in 2008 and 2011 before going on his roll from 2014-2016. “I am very proud of it. It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today.” Kyrgios, 21, couldn’t match the 25 aces he rained on Djokovic in a shock win in Acapulco this month. But 14 aces were plenty as he kept Djokovic off-balance with a welter of 100mph-plus serves. “That felt good to kind of prove it wasn’t a one-off thing,” Kyrgios said. “It felt good to back it up again.”
A break in the first game of the match was enough to give Kyrgios the opening set. Djokovic saved two break points late in the second set as they battled to the tiebreaker which Kyrgios dominated, sealing the win, fittingly, with a final monster serve.” “It’s a gamble,” Djokovic said of trying to anticipate Kyrgios’s first serve. “His second serve, if you think you’re going to have a look at it, you don’t, because he goes for it as well.” Kyrgios said that aggressive second serve is a cornerstone of his game. “It’s a high percentage for me to go big under pressure,” he said. “That’s my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game.”
Kyrgios, already the youngest player to record victories over Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, now gets another crack at Federer, who needed just 68 minutes to dispatch Nadal. Federer broke Nadal to open the match, and seized a second break and 4-1 with a blistering backhand service return winner. A forehand volley sealed the set, and another forehand winner put Federer up a break at 2-1 in the second. Federer was firmly in control as Nadal served to save the match at 5-3. An unlucky netcord bounce, when Nadal’s forehand clipped the net and rolled back, gave Federer a double match point, and with a backhand return down the line the 36th meeting between the two was his. The win marks the first time in the rivalry that Federer has strung together three wins over Nadal.
‘Impossible to win’
“In Australia was a very close match,” Nadal said. “I had good chances to win. Today, not. Today he played better than me. These kind of matches, when you’re not playing your match, it’s impossible to win.” World number three Stan Wawrinka, the highest-ranked player remaining after the departures of Djokovic and world number one Andy Murray, labored past lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) to reach the quarters. Nishioka, ranked 70th in the world, twice served for the match in the third set but was broken both times before Wawrinka subdued him in the tiebreaker. “I’m really happy to get through for sure,” said Wawrinka. “You have to be a little bit lucky when he served twice for the match.” Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan quietly reached the last eight with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over American Donald Young. He’ll face American Jack Sock, who beat Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 4-6, 7-6 (7/1), 7-5.- AFP