Rafa Nadal extended his perfect season to 19-0 at Indian Wells on Thursday with a 7-6(0), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Aussie Nick Kyrgios.
But it wasn’t easy for Nadal, who was down by a break in the opening set, lost the second, but turned out in the decider to advance to the semifinals.
“I think for moments I played well,” Nadal said.
“It’s difficult to play against him, always tough because he changes the dynamic of the point very quick and his serve is huge, especially the first serve.
“I think I played a good third set. Returning better. I was solid with the serve; I just suffered in one game with my serve. Nick is one of these kind of players that you’re going to have problems when he’s motivated.”
After the post-match handshake, Kyrgios smashed his racket on the court, which provoked a series of boos as he left the arena.
The racket came close to striking a ball boy, something Kyrgios later mentioned.
“It landed a metre from my foot and skidded and nearly hit him,” Kyrgios said.
“I’m human. Things happen like that. Obviously it was a very misfortunate bounce. I think if I did that a million times over it wouldn’t have gone that way.”
Back on court Kyrgios did himself no favours, receiving a point penalty for swearing at a fan.
The move rattled the Aussie, who went on to lose the tiebreak, but in the second set Kyrgios served an underhand to go 4-3 up, broke Nadal in the 12th game and went on to take out the set with a big backhand volley.
The Krygios sideshow continued in the third, when he had a conversation with another fan in the crowd who was sitting next to actor Ben Stiller, informing the man he didn’t tell Stiller how to act after he (Kyrgios) was told how to play the game.
And the Australian then took a 3-2 lead with a couple of massive aces.
But a double fault a game later let Nadal back in and he didn’t waste any time in seeing out the match.
Nadal will 18-year-old fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who beat defending champion and No. 12 seed Cameron Norrie, 6-4, 6-3.