Nick Kyrgios entertained but left empty-handed again as Rafael Nadal won a compelling fourth-round contest at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios, a huge basketball fan, was close to tears as he walked onto Rod Laver Arena wearing Kobe Bryant's LA Lakers vest in tribute to the star, who died on Sunday.
And initially it appeared the emotion of the occasion, coupled with physical fatigue after his four-and-a-half-hour battle against Karen Khachanov two days before, would prevent him making a fight of it.
But Kyrgios, driven by his efforts in raising money for victims of the wild fires, has been keen to show Australia that he cares on court as well as off it.
He roused himself at the start of the second set and, had he taken an extraordinary third set, the outcome might have been different but, as with their clash at Wimbledon last summer, it was Nadal who prevailed 6-3 3-6 7-6 (6) 7-6 (4).
That contest had a real edge to it after some very public needle, with Nadal accusing Kyrgios of lacking respect following a feisty match in Acapulco and the Australian branding his opponent "super salty" in an interview on the No Challenges Remaining podcast.
Both men had been more conciliatory in the build-up to this one and the match itself took centre stage.
Nadal leapt in the air when Kyrgios' final forehand landed in the net, and it is he who moves through to a quarter-final against Dominic Thiem on Wednesday.
Having been very subdued in the first set, Kyrgios made a statement at the start of the second by standing ready to serve well before umpire James Keothavong had called 'time'.
It was an important moment. Nadal pressed for an immediate advantage only for Kyrgios to save a break point with a rally featuring a wholly-unnecessary tweener.
It summed up the difference in their philosophies and Nadal's unusually passive response was perhaps because the idea of playing a trick shot at such a moment is unfathomable to the Spaniard.
Three games later, Kyrgios broke, leaping and punching the air after a desperate forehand pass dropped in.
Although the Australian could only laugh at the brilliance of some of his opponent's shots, Kyrgios' serve was really firing and he held relatively comfortably to level the match.
The third set was the peak of the contest, with Kyrgios doing all he could to flummox Nadal, mixing explosive ground strokes with slow balls, forehand slices, drop shots, an underarm serve and everything in between.
The Spaniard's game was certainly disrupted but Nadal is arguably the strongest athlete mentally in all of sport and it was he who eventually took the set on a tie-break.
There was plenty more drama, with Kyrgios smashing a racket and handing it to a fan then missing a 135 miles per hour second serve at 5-5.
Nadal, seemingly distracted by a crying baby, double-faulted on his first set point but he created a second and took it when Kyrgios slapped a forehand into the net.
The 24-year-old, who was looking to reach his first grand slam quarter-final for five years, then double-faulted again to drop serve in the third game of the fourth set, and finally Nadal seemed to have the breathing space he needed.
But the world number one played a tentative game serving for the match at 5-4 and a mighty forehand from Kyrgios earned him the break back.
The home favourite, for that is certainly what he was here, saved two break points to ensure he would have a shot at another tie-break, but a fluffed drop shot at 3-4 cost him dearly.
Nadal marches on
They don't call him the world No.1 for nothing ☝️����— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2020
After 3 hours and 38 minutes @RafaelNadal def. Nick Kyrgios 6-3 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6(4) to advance to his 12th #AusOpen quarterfinal.#AO2020pic.twitter.com/a14tlkZWKt
A tournament to be proud of for Kyrgios
Dominic Thiem awaits Nadal in the quarter-final
We know each other very well, it will be a tough one. He is hitting the ball very well.
I believe I am moving in the right direction in this tournament, hopefully this victory, against one of the best players in the world, gives me positive feelings. I'm going to try my best and see what happens.
41st Grand Slam quarter-final appearance or better for Nadal
I just feel happy that I won one more match tonight. The chance to play one more match on this court made me happy.
I always love playing here in Australia. The crowd understands the sport and respect, thank you very much for the support as always.
'I like the Nick Kyrgios we have at this tournament'
It was a very tough match. Against Nick you are never in control. If you have a mistake, like I did in the second set, then he has the break and it's so difficult to break him.
He played a good game but I played a scary game (at 5-4). But that's part of the sport but it's about recovering mentally for the tie-break.
When he is playing like today with this positive attitudes he gives a lot to the sport. I encourage him to keep working like this. He is one of the highest talents we have on this tour. And I like the Nick Kyrgios we have at this tournament.
Rafa speaks to John McEnroe
Thoughts firstly on the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant
I woke up this morning with this terrible news. I'm super sad. He has been one of the greatest sportsman in history. He deserves a big round of applause (the crowd obliges).
He always wanted more, he always wanted to increase his level. He was a true inspiration. It's one of those days you want to forget but of course Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and minds forever.
GAME, SET, MATCH - Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) Kyrgios
Nadal opts for power on the serve and Kyrgios can only return long. Three match points to the world number one.
He just needs one when a long rally ends with Krygios on the run, stretching, and sending the ball into the net.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-6 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Nadal with a big serve down the tee which Krygios cannot return. He then gets caught in two minds and opts for the drop shot but it lacks the power and drifts into the net for 5-3 Nadal. The metaphorical kitchen sink being slung over the net as Kyrgios digs it out for 5-4.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-6 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios looks up to the heavens as a 15-stroke rally goes the way of Nadal. The home favourite levels it up when his repeated smash shots eventually beat Nadal. Aces traded for 2-2 and then Kyrgios finds the outside of the line for 3-2. Noooooooo, he screams as the backhand malfunctions for 3-3. The crowd roaring their man on at the changeover.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-6 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Two games after serving for the match, Nadal is now serving to stay in the set. You'd still hugely favour the Spaniard for the win here, though.
He races into a 40-0 lead. A big forehand clips the net and diverts wide but it's a small reprieve for Kyrgios with an ace following. Tie-break time.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-6 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Despite that break of serve, the energy levels on the tank are getting close to the red for sure with Kyrgios. He leaves himself a mountain to climb at 0-30. Nadal's error makes it 15-30 but a missed forehand means it's two break points.
First one is saved and then the two players engage in a spot of cat and mouse at the net, with Kyrgios having to watch carefully to guide his volley down the line. Deuce. Then two absolutely stomping points from the world number 23 ensures the hold. He runs back to his chair, all for show towards Nadal or has he found some extra energy reserves?
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-5 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios drops one right on the tramline and Nadal goes long with the return. The Spaniard is in at the net on the next and slicing a volleyed winner into the empty court. Kyrgios is going down swinging, eventually drawing an mistake from Nadal. Oh hang on!!!! Double fault Nadal and the Australian has two break points. First one saved. But he's done it on the second and lets out a roar of approval.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-4 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Two aces definitely help matters. The problem comes with engaging in rallies with his opponent right now and Nadal pushes back to 30-30. A hanging smash shot that the late Kobe Byrant would have been proud of nudges Kyrgios back in front before Nadal goes long.
Whatever happens in the next game, you have to credit Kyrgios with sticking with this valiantly. On many occasions in the past, the fiery Australian would have called it by now. Nadal serving for the match.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 5-3 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
To emphasis the control being enjoyed by Nadal on serve, he brings up his 13th and 14th victorious point in a row. Kyrgios gets sniff with a rare forehand unforced error but Nadal shuts the door on the next by coming in a dominating at the net. Kyrgios challenges in vain but his deep shot is out and that's the game.
129 points won overall by Nadal to Kyrgios' 107.
57 winners to Kyrgios' 47.
Kyrgios to serve to stay in the match.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 4-3 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Yet again Kyrgios loses the first point on serve. He gets it back to 30-15 but Nadal's footwork is as sharp as the very first point of this match, and he sends a forehand winner down the line. Ace number 21 digs him out but he gifts the next point to Nadal when he floats a dolly back to the mid court.
Another ace, followed by a Nadal mistake, stops the double break.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 4-2 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios trying his best to keep a lid on his emotions as Nadal seemingly firms up on the finish line. Like a hunter zoning in on his prey, Nadal keeps the pressure on, with some superb ground strokes.
At 40-0 down, the Australian flings himself desperately at the shot but ends up on the ground. That's Nadal's ninth love service game of the match.
The parallel continues..— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 27, 2020
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 Kyrgios#AusOpen 2020:
Nadal 6-3, 3-6; 7-6 Kyrgios
The way Nadal responded to his ill-times double fault in that tiebreak by playing a gutsy next point was so extraordinary.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 3-2 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
A limp forehand into the net draws out groans from the crowd. But Kyrgios digs deep and grinds out the hold to keep within touching distance at least of the world number one.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 3-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
It's like the air has been drawn out of the tyres on the Kyrgios 4x4. A couple of tired looking shots against an opponent very much on the rise. An unstoppable forehand winner down the line wraps up a hold to love.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 2-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Warning signs for Kyrgios as he slips to 0-30. A forehand is hammered... straight into the net and Nadal finds himself with three break points.
Ouch. Double fault. Is that the beginning of the end for the entertaining Australian? I hope not, as this match is rather enjoyable.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 1-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios left asking himself 'how is he hitting that?' when another rally passes him by. It must be so frustrating facing Nadal, knowing that every point is a battle royal. The champion from ten years ago wraps up another game. Kyrgios has still just faced the one break point all match.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 0-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
This is turning into a cracker. Is that tie-break the turning point? Or has Kyrgios got something else left in the tank?
A relatively easy hold, including two aces, gets him on the board in this fourth set.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6) Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Super play from Nadal as he sets up the point brilliantly, pushing his opponent deep and then volleying the winner for second set point. And there's the set, when Kyrgios sends his return into the net. Nadal lets out a big roar and a fist pump.
A tie-break of contrasting emotions for these two....
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-6 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Nadal takes his sweet time on the unofficial changeover. Kyrgios pushes Nadal out wide on the serve and then goes to the other side for the point. But the approach to the net on the next fails to produce the goods as Kyrgios nets. Hang on, the mini-break is neutralised when Nadal winds up for a big forehand but it fails to clear the net and then Kyrgios makes it 5-5!
Kyrgios fans have their heads in their hands. Their man goes for broke on serve but coughs up double fault to hand Nadal set point. Would you believe it? Nadal has done exactly the same. 6-6.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-6 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Two errors nudges Nadal ahead but Kyrgios is cool as a cucumber at the net to clean up after the world number one reached the initial drop-shot. Smashed racket alert! Kyrgios receives a warning after missing the return at 1-3 and then Nadal rams the advantage home with a forehand winner. Miss from Nadal keeps Kyrgios interested at 4-2.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-6 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
At 15-15, Nadal scampers around the court, somehow managing return after return at the net before Kyrgios nets what should be an easy forehand. The Australian is holding his breath on a tight call on the baseline but it's in and then he works his way to deuce. Successful serve-volley brings up advantage before Nadal is unable to return the serve. We're having a breaker to decide this third set.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-5 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios, arms pumping, is eating up the court in front of him. Unfortunately for him, Nadal is like a giant wall at the net. The tactic of hitting it straight at his opponent with sheer speed works on the next point but then Nadal is back at the net again, volleying a winner. 40-15 and Kyrgios has some serious beef with the line judges after having to challenge an incorrect call. Nadal wraps up the game while his opponent continues airing his grievances to the umpire.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 5-5 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Nerves for Kyrgios at 15-30 but he digs himself out with some superb serving, finishing off with an ace. Over to you, Rafa.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 5-4 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios is going to have covered some distance this match. He's running, sliding, running, leaping superman-esque trying to get to a Nadal smash. The tactic of taking on Nadal's first serve is bearing fruit suddenly and we're at deuce.
The Australian can't believe it. Having pushed his opponent out of the court one side, his anticipated winner down the line is long. There's a cheeky drop-shot for deuce again. Nadal goes from defence to attack magnificently to gain the advantage and then holds. Superb from the world number one.
.@RafaelNadal doing Rafael Nadal things.— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2020
The World No. 1 has struck 37 winners to just 16 unforced errors so far.
And Kyrgios has an impressive 30 winners to 17 unforced errors.
It's tennis of the highest quality.#AO2020 | #AusOpenpic.twitter.com/B2oYQjWimk
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 4-4 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Ace for Kyrgios. And there's the under-arm serve, trying to catch Nadal out who stands far back on serve. Unfortunately for Kyrgios, it goes lamely into the net. And then when Nadal moves 40-30 up for break point, suddenly it's looking a little careless from the Australian.
That is bold. Faced with plenty of time on the shot, he pats it short over the net and it catches the tramline. Just. An ace and Nadal error confirms the game. That game was Kyrgios in a nutshell.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 4-3 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios digging in on these longer rallies and he wins another 19-shot epic. There's another one, the Australian straining every sinew as Nadal dictates matters. The world number one gets this one though with his opponent ending up flat on his back. He's quickly back up but it's largely to watch a winner pass him down the line. Nadal wraps it up with a forehand winner.
This is entertaining stuff. But the question is whether Kyrgios has the physical stamina to continue hanging in there.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 3-3 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
The Rod Laver Arena crowd are being treated to some top level tennis here. Kyrgios, unperturbed by an unfortunate net cord which hoicked his shot into the tramlines, produces a scintillating cross-court forehand winner despite his body seemingly heading in the wrong direction. He then wins the next with a cute half-volley and wraps up the game.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 3-2 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
The world number one doesn't let the blip last for long, though. Back on his serve and it is business as usual with yet another hold to love. There's even a little flourish on the final point as Kyrgios goes for the disguised drop-shot but Nadal is there and whips it away cross court. Never question the speed of Nadal, even at 33 years of age!
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 2-2 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
That's loose from Nadal. Two unforced errors among the game as well as Kyrgios comfortably holds.
Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 2-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
And there is such an example, with a searing backhand winner to bring an abrupt end to the rally. Kyrgios long on the next but he breaks the Nadal run of points on serve at 14 with a controlled forehand winner. 'Yes, well played' from Kyrgios as Nadal lays down a forehand winner of his own. Ace confirms the game.
Nadal is currently at 89% when it comes to points won on his first serve.
*Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 1-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
A sniff for Nadal after 0-30 but Kyrgios keeps calm and carries on. A couple of Nadal errors and an ace gets him back level. You just sense with Nadal that he could easily move up another level if required here though.
Nadal 6-3 3-6 1-0 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
He may be seething inside at losing that second set but outwardly it's business as usual for Nadal. The main drama of that game being umpire James Keothavong having to intervene to warn spectators against calling out mid serve - 'please keep the adverse comments to yourself'
Kyrgios' mood in those two sets
*Nadal 6-3 3-6 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
An unstoppable forehand winner starts things off, more of that needed rather than the forehand dribbler that follows. Is Nadal slightly tentative there as he fails to go on the attack in the rally and nets. A forehand winner makes it 30-30 but an ace brings up set point Kyrgios. He's done it! Back-to-back aces levels things up.
Nadal 6-3 3-5 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Having previously been letting out noises shortly after each shot, Kyrgios has turned the volume down this game. It leaves the commentators questioning whether the delayed reaction is conscious or sub-conscious. Either way, the changed tactic has no effect as Nadal closes out yet another service game to love. He immediately goes to change his racket, making Kyrgios wait a little longer to serve for the set.
*Nadal 6-3 2-5 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
A cute angled volley gets Kyrgios up and running before Nadal cannot gather at the net on the next. A double fault is only a minor blip as he sees out the game with a vicious forehand winner down the line. Nadal will serve to stay in the set.
Nadal 6-3 2-4 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Nadal has been here so many times, facing an opponent pumped full of adrenaline. A hold to love brings the heat down a few notches.
*Nadal 6-3 1-4 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Ace. Ace. Long from Nadal. A proper purple patch from Kyrgios who forces another error from Nadal and consolidates the break.
*Nadal 6-3 1-3 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Just the second time, after the opening game of the match, that Kyrgios has won the opening point on the Nadal serve. A rare unforced Nadal error off his forehand takes it to 15-30. But the world number one demonstrates his extraordinary stamina on a 16-shot rally, stretching his opponent this way and that and barely breaking sweat. Hang on, break point Kyrgios! Tennis at the highest quality, the two trade baseline blows before Kyrgios kisses the very, very edge of the baseline with a forehand down the line. The crowd are on their feet, this is what they wanted to see from their man!
*Nadal 6-3 1-2 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios races into a 40-0 lead but no game is ever easy with Nadal at the opposite side of the net. Kyrgios thinks he has his rival with a lob but the Spaniard incredibly manages to hit a forehand winner on the turn! Kyrgios returns to the lob very next shot and this time it's too hot for Nadal.
Nadal 6-3 1-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
11 points in a row on serve for Nadal who wrong-foots Kyrgios cross-court. Kyrgios breaks the run after successfully challenging an overturned call on the tramline. But two aces either side of a forehand winner confirms the hold.
*Nadal 6-3 0-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Nadal nipped off court between sets there and something appears to upset the world number one upon returning to his chair. Maybe someone moved his meticulously arranged bottles?
Double fault Kyrgios not the best way to start the set. Nadal then triumphs in two energy-sapping long rallies to bring up two break points at 15-40. Ace saves the first. The second is somehow saved too, having misjudged the shot and then being forced to pull out a hot-dog mid-rally. Backhand-forehand combo Nadal brings up third break point. Saved at the net. Kyrgios twice moves to advantage but cannot convert. He does on the third though, crucial hold.
Nadal 6-3 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Too good - 36 minutes and the world number one takes the first set, courtesy of just the single break. He does it with a hold to love too.
Kyrgios, after chuntering away to himself mid set, appeared to regain some semblance of calm towards the end. No doubting he is pumped for this one, but can that translate into play on court? Improvements needed.
*Nadal 5-3 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
New balls. Nadal sends back the first return with interest but the second is too short and Kyrgios picks his spot with his forehand. Another strong Nadal return catches out Kyrgios who has rushed to the net before two Nadal errors makes it 40-30. Kyrgios drops a half-volley over the net, Nadal gets there but he goes for the single-handed backhand and it goes wide. Nadal to serve for the set.
Nadal 5-2 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Serving at its very best for Nadal as he moves to within a game of the first set with a hold to love. That game included his first drop-shot of the match, executed with panache as not even the rapid Kyrgios to get there in time.
*Nadal 4-2 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Nadal's backhand is already firing on all cylinders this match as he powers one back which Kyrgios can only put into the net. An ace sandwich either side of a cleverly worked point on the baseline takes him to 40-15. A sniff for Nadal with a rapid forehand winner but Kyrgios delivers another ace.
Nadal 4-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Not good signs for the Kyrgios camp. The Australian is now engaging in full on running commentary with himself, even while Nadal is preparing to serve. The crowd trying to rally him back on side. He's hanging in there though against the serene world number one, clawing back to 30-30. But Nadal does not blink and a body serve does the trick to wrap up the game.
*Nadal 3-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Going with serve so far and Kyrgios seemingly very much focused on the task ahead. Ah, maybe not. After racing out into a 40-15 lead, he goes for not one, but two, rally-cutting drop shots, both of which float straight into the net.
A big ace out wide gets him back on track but two errors off his racket hand Nadal break point. The first is saved but then, with the court gaping and Nadal outside the tramlines, the Australian finds the net. Second break point. It's long from Kyrgios and he breaks. A 'well done' comes from Kyrgios who has already started the muttering to himself.
Nick Kygrios wearing the Kobe jersey to start this match is everything ����������— Katie Boulter (@KatieBoulter1) January 27, 2020
Nadal 2-1 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
Bad blood, what bad blood? Kyrgios acknowledges an unreturnable serve from Nadal. It's a theme that continues for the game as quick as a flash Nadal moves through the gears for a hold to love. To be fair, Kyrgios is quick to applaud good play from most of his opponents, even those he thinks are 'salty'.
*Nadal 1-1 Kyrgios (*denotes next to serve)
Kyrgios' serve has been a weapon this tournament so far and two big deliveries helps him to 30-0. He makes to move into the net on the next but his court positioning must be better against a master such as Nadal since the Spaniard picks his spot to pass. Nadal flays a cross-court forehand wide and then Kyrgios registers his first ace of the match.
Nadal 1-0 Kyrgios* (*denotes next to serve)
An enticing game to whet the appetite for things to come.
Kyrgios wins the first point courtesy of a casual backhand winner and then Nadal moves into what should be a comfortable 40-15 lead after an ace. But from a position of strength, Nadal chucks in back-to-back double faults for deuce (the second after a challenge from Kyrgios who questions why a call did not come). Regroup and go again, Nadal works his opponent around before a forehand winner and then when Kyrgios nets, that's the game.
Kyrgios switches into his salmon coloured playing shirt. The warm ups are done, here we go....
Players in tribute to Bryant
There was the sad news last night that US basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in California. The former LA Lakers star was an avid tennis fan himself and the tennis world have been paying their own tributes. An emotional looking Kyrgios is warming up in an LA Lakers shirt while Nadal left his own tribute via social media this morning.
I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) January 27, 2020
Words of Carlos Moya, Nadal's coach
It's two guys totally different in their play and attitude.
On one side a very aggressive player who will try and break the rhythm as much as possible. For Rafa, it is important to stay focused and convert the chances that come up. We think Rafa is in great shape and ready to win this round.
A marmite kinda guy
You either love him or hate him but there's no denying Nick Kyrgios has been on form in Melbourne so far this year. From the trick shots to the tantrums, it seems a Kyrgios blow up never seems that far away. He's even found time to take the mickey out of Nadal's famously long preparations when serving.
�� Tweeners— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 26, 2020
�� Taunts @NickKyrgios has been on fantastic form in Melbourne ��
���� Watch Kyrgios v Nadal at the #AusOpen
�� Eurosport 1
������ Eurosport Player: https://t.co/0Fa7uXMVB9pic.twitter.com/pLoqJqW2TC
'I don't know him personally'
Up against occasional pantomime villain Kygios, who will likely be sporting his board shorts for this match, Nadal comes across as a model of focus and dedication. It is an approach that has paid dividends with 19 Grand Slam titles to his name and the Spaniard was at his diplomatic best in the build up to today's match when asked about his opponent's antics.
"I don't know him personally, honestly, to have a clear opinion. When he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don't like. When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour, and I want my tour bigger, not smaller.”
A rebel with a cause
Before the Australian Open got under way, Telegraph tennis correspondent Simon Briggs wrote that Kyrgios is more bothered by slings and arrows than he lets on.
So far he has managed to stay on the right side of the line when he comes to his on-court behaviour and the Australian public seem to be loving him for it. But is it sustainable?
In-form Nadal chases more history
If Nadal reaches the semi-finals in Melbourne he is guaranteed to remain as world number one while the 33-year-old is now just 16 matches away from achieving 1000 tour-level victories in his career and is looking to become the first man in the Open era - and third man in history - to win each major twice.
So far this fortnight, the Spaniard has won three matches in straight sets, conceding just 22 games in total. A hot run of form.
The match up that caught the eye
When the draws were conducted for the Australian Open, there was one particular potential match up that leapt off the page. World no.1 Rafael Nadal versus unpredictable Aussie livewire Nick Kyrgios for a place in the men's singles quarter-final.
Of course, games had to be played, opponents beaten and matches won before such an mouth-watering prospect could come to fruition. Indeed, at one stage on Saturday, it looked like Nadal vs Krygios might not happen. The Spaniard had kept up his end of the bargain, easing through his third consecutive win but Kyrgios was toiling away, deep into a fifth set against Russian powerhouse Karen Khachanov. Thankfully, the Australian was more than up for the fight, coming through the longest match of his career to set up a heavyweight clash with rival Nadal. The question for today, will be whether Kyrgios comes out swinging against his rival.
Ever since a teenage Kyrgios burst onto the scene by defeating Nadal at Wimbledon 2014, there has been a bit of spice between these two contrasting characters. The Spaniard edges their head to head at 4-3, with Kyrgios prevailing in a fiery contest in Acapulco last February, before Nadal won the most recent bout in a high-quality contest on the lawns of Wimbledon in July.
The latter came just a few weeks after Kyrgios had expressed some more than colourful opinions about his rival while appearing on the No Challenges Remaining podcast.
"He’s my polar opposite, like literally my polar opposite. And he’s super salty. Every time I’ve beaten him ... when he wins, it’s fine. He won’t say anything bad, he’ll credit the opponent, ‘He was a great player’. But as soon as I beat him, it’s just like, ‘He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game’.
And the fun and games continued at Wimbledon, Kyrgios twice serving underarm on game point, receiving a code violation for unsportsmanlike behaviour and even admitting post match to trying to hit Nadal with a stinging forehand.
Kyrgios may have been on his (relatively) best behaviour so far in Melbourne but will his childish side come out today? Let's find out.