The toughest assignment in men’s tennis – Rafael Nadal on clay – looms next for Nick Kyrgios after a breezy win by the Australian at the Madrid Open on Wednesday.
Kyrgios did what his compatriot Bernard Tomic on Tuesday could not – down American Ryan Harrison.
And the lanky Aussie did it with almost Roger Federer-like ease in a 6-3 6-3 victory that took little over an hour.
Nadal though did not have it all his own way and took nearly three hours to put away enigmatic Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4 and he was left fuming by his sub-par performance.
“Even though I played really badly, my attitude has been very positive,” Nadal said.
Nadal prior to the Fognini match had looked to be in imperious touch after winning back-to-back titles in Monaco and Barcelona.
He’s won 10 straight, lost just one set in that time and now has an all-time record of 51 claycourt titles, which may well become 52 by week’s end.
But Kyrgios looks to be improving all the time on the surface, has a claycourt final to his name in Estoril in 2015) and pinched a set off Nadal in their round of 16 clash in Rome last year.
He also won their only other encounter at Wimbledon in 2014.
There’s also further impetus for Kyrgios to do well.
Novak Djokovic scraped into the third round after veteran Spaniard Nicolas Almagro blew a 3-0 final set lead to allow the former world No.1 to win 6-1 4-6 7-5 and book a battle with another Spanish veteran in Felciano Lopez.
Lopez advanced with a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-3) win over Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Other big names through to the third round include Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori.
But third seed Stan Wawrinka crashed out 7-5 4-6 6-2 to world No.52 Benoit Paire of France.
Grigor Dimitrov was a 6-3 7-5 winner over Ivo Karlovic while Alexander Zverev kept his nerve to hold off seventh seed Marin Cilic 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-4.