Rafael Nadal battled back to defeat wild card Nick Kyrgios 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 in a thrilling match that lived up to the hype in the Indian Wells Tennis Championships quarterfinals, to face his compatriot Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz for a place in the final.
Despite not giving his best, Nadal triumphed in the important moments and kept calm while his rival threw his racket and fought with the referee, the fans and himself.
Nadal saved several break points early in the third set and held off his strong Australian opponent to extend his perfect season record to 19 matches.
“I think I played well in the third set, I hit the ball better, my serve was good,” Nadal said in an on-field interview.
Kyrgios started the match in style, breaking Nadal to take a 2-1 lead, then landed a stunning forehand to make the score 5-3.
But Nadal hit back and broke Kyrgios for the first time in the tournament to level at 5-5, with the Aussie throwing away his racket after Nadal took the lead.
Awkward errors caused a problem for Kyrgios in the tie break that Nadal dominated, as the referee awarded Nadal an extra point after Kyrgios insulted a fan.
The Aussie regained his focus in the second set and led 4-3 and then broke Nadal in the final game with an excellent backhand that stunned the crowd to level.
Nadal, who committed seven double faults and won just 29 per cent of his second serve points, saved several break points early in the third set and broke Kyrgios for the second time to advance 4-3.
And the Spanish player ended his victory with a superb kick.
After shaking Nadal’s hand, Kyrgios threw his racket onto the pitch and it nearly bounced into the stands.
“Tennis is about momentum,” Nadal said. “I knew that after finishing the second set with some mistakes. I knew the start of the third set would be crucial for me. I saved the first two games to serve and then the match came back. to normal and then I played well.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion is hoping for a fourth title in California, equaling Novak Djokovic’s record of 37 Masters titles each.
Nadal, 35, will play the young Alcaraz after the 18-year-old Spaniard defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie, the defending champion, 6-4, 6-3.
“It will be difficult to face Rafa, but I will enjoy the day and the match. You don’t face your idol every day,” Alcaraz said after reaching the Masters semifinals for the first time.
Alcaraz became the youngest player to reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells since American Andre Agassi in 1988.
“I think he is unstoppable in terms of his career. He has all the ingredients and the desire and he is humble enough to work hard,” Nadal said of Alcaraz.
He added: “He will be a great competitor at the moment and in the coming months for sure, and with a selfish eye, it’s great to have an outstanding player from my country… I wish him all the best.”