Wildcard Nick Kyrgios will have the chance to end Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten start to 2022 when they clash in a highly-anticipated quarter-final showdown at the Indian Wells Masters.
While Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur was ousted by local hope Taylor Fritz in the round of 16, Kyrgios received a walkover into the last eight when his scheduled opponent Jannik Sinner withdrew from the tournament due to illness.
Nadal sealed a blockbuster encounter with Kyrgios when he withstood the serving barrage of Reilly Opelka to make it 18 wins in a row to start the year — only Novak Djokovic has gotten off to better starts since 1990 when the Serb went 26-0 to begin 2020 and 41-0 to open 2011.
“He is playing great,” Nadal said of Kyrgios in his on-court interview.
“He is one of the toughest opponents on Tour.
“Everyone knows how good he is when he is motivated, so probably tomorrow he will be.
“It is going to be a good test for me and good challenge.
“I am excited to be in the quarter-finals, and in the quarter-finals you can’t expect an easy opponent.”
Nadal, a three-time champion in the desert, holds a 5-3 record over Kyrgios — who has reached the last eight of an ATP Tour event event for the first time since his title success in Washington three years ago.
De Minaur’s record in fourth round matches at ATP Masters 1000 events slumped to 0-7 when he went down 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to 20th-seeded Fritz.
The 29th-seeded de Minaur took the first set but Fritz fought back to prevail in a third-set tiebreaker.
De Minaur was up an early break in the deciding set before he battled back from a break down.
The tiebreaker went with serve until the 12th point when Fritz forced a backhand error from de Minaur.
Nadal delighted the crowd in southern California with his trademark tenacity proving too much for Opelka in two tiebreaker sets, 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5).
Nadal rallied from a 2-4 deficit in the second set before he closed out the match by pulling Opelka out of the court and forcing the 211cm American’s backhand to land wide.
Nadal improved to 19-0 against American opponents since losing to John Isner at the 2017 Laver Cup.
Others to reach the last eight were unseeded Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, who stunned Italian sixth seed Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, a 6-3 7-6 (8-6) victory over John Isner.