Rafael Nadal returns to Cincinnati for the first time in five years on Wednesday. Rafa faces Borna Coric in his first match at the Cincinnati Masters since 2017, when he lost to Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals. It was the Spaniard’s seventh quarterfinal in Ohio.
Still, he didn’t remember it for long after experiencing a 6-2, 7-5 loss in 80 minutes. Nadal defeated Richard Gasquet and Albert Ramos-Vinolas to set up the Nick Kyrgios clash. The Australian was too strong for Rafa in the second game of the day for both players.
Kyrgios struggled with his left hip and couldn’t find proper form in the months before. He retired in three straight games and never reached the quarterfinals after Miami. Buoyed by a big stage and a great rival on the other side of the net, Nick kept his focus without the usual mistakes or tantrums, motivated to show his best tennis.
He overwhelmed Rafa in all segments, dropping 15 points in ten service games and fending off two of three break chances to maintain a high level throughout the match.
Nick Kyrgios defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Cincinnati 2017.
The Australian was determined.
He kept his backhand safe and made 16 errors in the entire clash. His groundstrokes were deep and powerful, forcing Nadal to lose his balance and struggle to impose his shots. Unable to find a suitable answer in his games, the Spaniard broke four times to propel the Aussie to the top.
Not trusting his strokes, Nadal made too many mistakes and stayed miles from the baseline in an attempt to return Kyrgios’s bombs from serve. In addition, Rafa had his serve broken just after stealing the rival’s serve, something that we don’t usually see in his games.
Kyrgios had 21 service winners to Nadal’s 13, going 16-12 in field winners for a younger player. Nick made 11 unforced errors, nine fewer than Nadal, who hit 13 forehands and seven backhands.
66% of the points ended in four shots, and Nick was 45-29 in front. He also held a 21-17 advantage in the longest exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets. Nick got off to a great start, winning the first four games in 13 minutes after just one mistake!
The Aussie clinched the set with a hold in game eight after 25 minutes and secured another break at 2-2 in set number two to take another big step towards the finish line. Up to 5-4, Kyrgios had dropped just eight points behind the opening shot, and he looked good to seal the deal soon after that.
Instead, he suffered a break at the worst time to return Rafa to 5-5 and prolong the battle. It wasn’t for Nadal though, as he broke at love in game 11 and allowed Kyrgios to seal the deal with three winners a few minutes later.