By Ros Satar

  • Nick Kyrgios [15] def. N Djokovic [2] 6-4 7-6(3)
  • Roger Federer [9] def. Rafael Nadal [5] 6-2 6-3

INDIAN WELLS, USA – The ATP quarter-finals are set, and finally ‘the Death Canyon’ Quarter got its first casualties.

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From the minute the draw was made, it was all about Round 4 day as two potential nightmare matches presented themselves. We were not disappointed.

 

Nick Kyrgios [15] def. N Djokovic [2] 6-4 7-6(3)

First up in the late moments of the blazing sun was the match that probably had more at stake than the match-up against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That might sound strange, but the defending champion was not only looking to ‘four-peat’ but needed the defended points on offer to stay the course to catch World No. 1 Andy Murray. Certainly the tail end of this half of the year is making life difficult for the troubled Serb.

While he played well in his encounter with Juan Martin Del Potro, it must have felt like déjà vu to come through a tense encounter with the Tower of Tandil, only to be out-hit by Kyrgios.

In the face of quite frankly some shocking line calls, Kyrgios kept his composure and the Aussie came to play, breaking Djokovic in the first game of the first set, and holding on to that advantage, not giving Djokovic a sniff of a break point, but putting him under a pressure a couple more times in that first set.

The second set was a lot more competitive from both – solid on their service games and it was late into the set before Kyrgios started to bring up break point opportunities, but failed to edge ahead, instead forcing a tie-break.

From there though it started as one-way traffic from the Australian, getting an immediate mini-break and jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Delivering the final blow with a mini-break for a 6-2 lead, claiming a second successive victory over Djokovic in as many tournaments.

Djokovic once more just had no read on the serve, as he admitted in his post-match press conference, saying: “The [19-match winning] run was amazing. I am very proud of it, obviously. It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today.”

“Nick, again, as he did in Acapulco earlier, few weeks ago, he served so well. Just wasn’t managing to get a lot of balls back on his serve, first and second, as well. So I guess that’s what made a difference.”

Kyrgios said after losing a tough doubles match pater in the evening said: “I knew it was going to be a tough battle today. I knew he wanted to come out there and obviously after Acapulco to come out there and win.

“The conditions are completely different here than they are in Acapulco. I don’t think I served anywhere near as I did in Acapulco. I fought for every point, and obviously we were a bit nervous at times.

“I thought it was a pretty good match. I played the crucial points pretty well. Obviously I just served well again. Yeah, it was good to get through.”

 

Roger Federer [9] def. Rafael Nadal [5] 6-2 6-3

We were spoiled in Australia. We were spoiled in a five set match that really could have swung anyway. We thought it could have been Nadal’s title for the taking but he fell away and another notch of history was carved out with Federer’s initials.

If we thought it was a flash in the pan – we were very wrong. With a stinging backhand and playing free, Federer pretty much demolished Nadal and in straight sets put paid to all the hyperbole surrounding the Quarter-of-Death or perhaps more in keeping with our desert surroundings, Death Quarter-valley.

Where we are used to seeing a serene style of balletic play, we were treated to a show of aggression from Federer that effectively pinned Nadal down, unable to find any kind of answer for the barrage of backhands which looks by far the most improved shot in his arsenal.

He explained: “I think the backhand has gotten better because I have been able to put so many hours onto the racquet now. And really, since this year, I feel super comfortable with the racquet, and I think I have also gained confidence stepping into it.

“Obviously you have to take it on the rise, and for that you need good footwork, because if the footwork is not right, you won’t be on top of the ball.

“So I think all my coaches throughout my career have told me to go more for the backhand, but I used to shank more. So maybe deep down I didn’t always believe that I had it in the most important moments. But I think that’s changing little by little, which I’m very happy about.”

 

Honourable Mentions

Kei Nishikori [4] def. Donald Young 6-2 6-4

Starting off the day’s action, US hopes swindled in the sweltering temperatures as Donald Young squandered a 4-1 lead to level the match against fourth seed Kei Nishikori. The Japanese player reeled off five games on the bounce to book his spot in the quarter-finals for the second time. He was beaten last year by Nadal.

 

Stan Wawrinka [3] def. Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6 6-3 7-6(4)

One of the treats of the night was watching Lucky Loser Yoshihito Nishioka almost take out another seed in what has been an outstanding run for the 21-year-old. Having taken out two seeds already in Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych, the Japanese player proceeded to dismantle a stiff and powerless looking Wawrinka to take the first set, and having to be at his clutch best as Nishioka had two chances to serve out the match in the final set.

Looking as though he was beginning to struggle with a jarred knee after an evening of running everything down, finally Wawrinka found himself able to close out a tense tie-break but we could just have seen the start of an incredible rise for Nishioka.

 

Full ATP results

ATP Indian Wells $1,175,505 R4 14 Mar
K Nishikori [4] (JPN) 62 64 D Young (USA)
P Carreno Busta [21] (ESP) 64 76(5) D Lajovic [Q] (SRB)
P Cuevas [27] (URU) 63 36 63 D Goffin [11] (BEL)
N Kyrgrios [15] (AUS) 64 76(3) N Djokovic [2] (SRB)
J Sock [17] (USA) 46 76(1) 75 M Jaziri (TUN)
R Federer [9] (SUI) 62 63 R Nadal [5] (ESP)
S Wawrinka [3] (SUI) 36 63 76(4) Y Nishioka [LL] (JPN)
D Thiem [8] (AUT) 63 62 G Monfils [10] (FRA)

 

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