Rafael Nadal defeated Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (0), 5-7, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in a match featuring obscenities, underhand serves, a point penalty and smashed rackets.

Nadal improved to 19-0 this year, the third-best start to a season since 1990.
Nadal improved to 19-0 this year, the third-best start to a season since 1990. (AFP)

Rafa Nadal has beaten mercurial wildcard Nick Kyrgios 7-6(0) 5-7 6-4 in a blockbuster quarter-final match that lived up to the hype at Indian Wells and set up a clash with teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz for a spot in the final.

The unflappable Spaniard, who claimed a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, improved to 19-0 in 2022 and notched his sixth win in nine career meetings against the mercurial Aussie, who surrendered the first set on a point penalty on Thursday, raged at the chair umpire over the disruptive crowd and even had a testy exchange with actor Ben Stiller.

When it was all over, Kyrgios flung his racquet once more in disgust, and it bounced toward a ballboy who had to dodge out of the way. 

Kyrgios was irked that the unintentional incident garnered as much attention as his sometimes sparkling performance against Nadal, who admitted himself that he was lucky to pocket a first set that Kyrgios was two points away from winning.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Kyrgios climbed to 30-15 only to wind up broken by Nadal.

Nadal said there was luck involved – guessing right, for one, on a mighty Kyrgios serve up the T.

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'I feel lucky'

"I put the racquet there, and then I played a good point, and then he make mistake on the break point," Nadal said.

"I feel lucky to win that set because returning with 5-4 against Nick, the chances to win that set are, let's say, 10%, maybe less. But it happened. I played some good points there."

The tiebreaker was all Nadal, and Kyrgios, who had already been warned for racquet abuse, gave it up when he was docked a point when a fan's shout as he prepared to serve provoked a profanity-laced response.

Kyrgios was able to get back on terms, gaining the only break of the second set in the final game with a stylish backhand volley.

Unable to convert two break points in the second game of the third set, Kyrgios gave up a break with a double fault that saw Nadal seize a 4-3 lead.

It proved the only opening the Spaniard would need as he stepped up the pressure on Kyrgios's serve and held his own with ease.

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Kyrgios insisted that he wasn't hindered by his emotional response to the crowd – and his perception that umpire Carlos Bernardes wasn't doing enough to control the disruptive spectators.

"It was an amazing atmosphere," said Kyrgios. "I was focused. Just because I have an outburst doesn't mean I'm not focused."

Source: AFP