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Rafael Nadal kept his cool in what proved to be a fiery contest against Nick Kyrgios in their Indian Wells quarter-final as the pair went toe-to-toe in another epic head-to-head clash. Nadal had made the most of a distracted Kyrgios to take the first set but the Australian tennis ace regained his focus to force a deciding set.
But, after neither player was giving anything away in the third, Nadal eventualy found the breakthrough he needed as Kyrgios failed to find a response. Tensions were high on court from the very first game with Kyrgios clearly up for the challenge against the former world No 1.
And it was the Aussie who took an early lead after breaking Nadal’s serve to moe up to 3-1 in the first set. Despite his slender lead, Kyrgios began to show signs of frustration with crowd noises appearing to put him off.
The 26-year-old would repeatedly turn around to address some fans in the stands who were making noises during his serve. And it appeared to get the better of him towards the end of the first set with Nadal sensing an opportunity.
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Kyrgios ended up losing his serve as the set was soon tied at 5-5 with the Aussie reacting by smashing his racket on the court before punching a board on his way back to his seat. He wasn’t able to recompose himself in time for the tiebreak with Nadal soon racing to a 6-0 lead with Kyrgios then handing the set to his opponent after receiving a point penalty.
There was much of the same frustrations from Kyrgios in the second set, but he appeared to refocus to keep Nadal at arms length before sensing an opportunity towards the end of the set to break serve in tremendous fashion. With two break points, Kyrgios rushed to the net to return a deep drop shot from Nadal before the Spaniard managed to get the ball back over the net.
But Kyrgios read it expertly before jumping up for a brilliant backhanded smash to win the second set. Nadal was then on the backfoot at the start of the third, forced to hold off an onslaught from Kyrgios.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion saved two break points as Kyrgios continued to dominate on his serve. But it was soon Kyrgios’ turn to fight back on his serve, hitting three aces to save two break points.
Nadal was eventually able to find the breakthrough on his next opportunity though to take the break midway through the deciding set, but Kyrgios immediately launched into a tirade at chair umpire Carlos Bernardes about the noise from the crowd. Kyrgios ferociously shouted: “How long you gonna let that s*** go on for? How long?!
Bernardes was able to keep his cool in discussion with Kyrgios but the Aussie had it all to do after Nadal raced to a love-service game to take a 5-3 lead. Kyrgios ended up holding his serve to force Nadal into serve for the match, but the world No 4 was unrelenting and gave nothing away as he picked Kyrgios apart to advance to the semi-finals.
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