It’s down to the last two in the quarter of death, as Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios battle for a semi-final spot at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday.
Roger Federer vs Nick Kyrgios BNP Paribas Open tennis is live from Indian Wells on Friday, March 17 from 12:00pm local time/ 7:00pm GMT
In one of the best performances of his great career, Federer blew away great rival, Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, limiting the Spaniard to just five games in a remarkable display of attacking tennis. Most impressive about Federer on the night was his backhand, which he struck with meaning and authority, as Nadal was reduced to a spectator watching almost helplessly as the winners sped past his flailing racket.
That was Federer’s third straight victory over Nadal (the first time he has managed to achieve that), and his second in 2017; following his win over the Spaniard at the Australian Open final- his first tournament since a six-month injury-enforced absence. The great Swiss is more than making up for that absence. He has already extended his Grand Slam winning record to 18, and now, he is closing in a record-equalling fifth Indian Wells title.
Federer had begun his Indian Wells campaign with two contrasting straight-sets victories. He saw off Stephane Robert in a 51-minute 6-2 6-1 dispatch in his opening round, before getting past American, Steve Johnson in two tie breaks in the third round. He was saving his best performance for the big moment, and when Nadal emerged in the fourth round, the great man turned on the style to deliver one of the finest wins in glittering career. At the start of the tournament, when Federer was quizzed about the quarter of death, his response was: ‘I came here to play against these guys’. He wasn’t kidding.
"It's a nice feeling to win the last three. I can tell you that," said Federer. "After the Australian hype, to play here in America right away, all of them are very special.
"All the matches that we have played are unique in many ways for both of us, winning or losing. So I take it. Obviously can't celebrate too long this time around. I have to get back to work in a couple of days."
By work, he means preparing for a quarter final meeting with Australian maverick/talent, Nick Kyrgios, who yet again suggested that he could be the Federer of the future with a truly classy dispatch of defending champion, Novak Djokovic.
Nick Kyrgios. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
For Kyrgios, it was a second victory in as many meetings against Djokovic, with the two successes coming just three weeks apart- as if to prove that his Acapulco win was no fluke. Kyrgios didn’t quite match the outstanding 25 aces he fired down in his Acapulco victory, he was nonetheless lethal from the line, sending down 14 aces and giving away no break points in a nerveless 6-4 7-6 victory over the world number two.
"I think beating Djokovic for anyone is a pretty big win, especially for me," said Kyrgios. "I knew it was going to be a tough battle today. I knew after Acapulco he wanted to come out there and win. I thought it was a pretty good match. I played the crucial points pretty well. Obviously I just served well again. It was good to get through."
It was the second such impressive victory for Kyrgios at this season’s BNP Paribas Open. In a third round tie built up as the battle of the young guns, Kyrgios dominated a seemingly overwhelmed Zverev to complete a straight sets victory. He did allow a few controversial line calls to get to him, and at a point threatened to implode, but overall, the tennis was high quality, and way too good for his German opponent.
Kyrgios’ season has quickly gathered pace after a slow start to the campaign. There was the low point of an Australian Open second round implosion against Andreas Seppi, but his response to that was to reach back-to-back semi-finals in Marseille and Acapulco, and now he stands on the verge of a third straight ATP World Tour semi-final. Kyrgios has been to just the one Masters 1000 semi-final, a feat he managed in Miami last year- but he needs to start delivering more consistently in the big tournaments, and an Indian Wells semi-finals will be a nice place to begin.
Kyrgios is the second man (after Lleyton Hewitt) to beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic at his first attempt. That victory over Federer- a Round of 32 epic in Madrid in 2015 remains their only meeting till date.
The potency of Kyrgios’s serve cannot be understated, as his two victories over Djokovic, still one of the finest returners around, will testify; and if he serves that well against Federer in the quarter-finals, he will be hard to stop.
Kyrgios also did fantastically well to stay with Djokovic from the back of the court, but one thing Djokovic did not do enough of was force the Australian into defensive positions. The Serbian, for whatever looked almost scared to hit through the ball with any real purpose on a consistent basis. Federer, on the evidence of his victory over Nadal, will have no problems doing that.
Kyrgios’ best chance of beating Federer lies with the serve, but the Swiss, who is no slouch from the line, will test the Australian with aggression and quality. I’m backing seasoned veteran to be just too good for the Australian young gun in this one.