Thursday, March 16, 2017

Federer routs Nadal; Kyrgios ends Djokovic streak

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal shake hands after Wednesday's fourth-round
match in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Federer won 6-2, 6-3.
Photo by Mal Taam
   INDIAN WELLS -- Roger Federer continues to defy time.
   Nick Kyrgios' time is rapidly approaching.
   In consecutive fourth-round matches at 16,100-seat Stadium 1 on Wednesday, Kyrgios ended Novak Djokovic's BNP Paribas Open winning streak at 20 matches and Federer outclassed Rafael Nadal in the "Quarter of Death."
   Both Federer and Kyrgios backed up earlier victories over their opponents this year.
   Federer, seeded ninth and ranked 10th, needed only 68 minutes to defeat Nadal, seeded fifth and ranked sixth, by the surprisingly one-sided score of 6-2, 6-3.
   It was the earliest Federer, 35, and Nadal, 30, have met in a tournament since their first encounter in 2004 and Federer's most one-sided victory against his archrival since winning 6-3, 6-0 in the round-robin phase of the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals in London.
   Federer also earned his third consecutive victory over Nadal for the first time following wins in the finals at Basel, Federer's hometown, in 2015 and in the Australian Open in January. The Melbourne title was Federer's first since Wimbledon in 2012. He missed the last six months of 2016 after hurting his left knee while giving his twin daughters a bath and undergoing arthroscopic surgery.
   "It's a nice feeling to win the last three (over Nadal), I can tell you that," said Federer, who trails 23-13 in the head-to-head series. "But most importantly, I won Australia. That was big for me. On the comeback, I look back at that and think that was one of the coolest things I ever experienced in my career.
   "Basel was special, too, for many reasons, because I used to be a ballboy there. After the Australian hype, to play here in America right away, all of them are very special. All the matches that we have played are unique in many ways for both of us, winning or losing. So I take it. Obviously, I can't celebrate too long this time around. I have to get back to work in a couple of days."
   Federer broke Nadal's serve in the first game of the match and dominated the rest of the way. As in Melbourne, Federer crushed his much-improved one-handed backhand.
   "In Australia, it was a very close match," Nadal said. "I had good chances to win. Today, not. Today he played better than me. ... These kind of matches, when you're not playing your match, it is impossible to win."
Nick Kyrgios beat Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive week and ended
the Serb's BNP Paribas Open winning streak at 20 matches. Photo by Mal Taam
   Federer, a four-time champion at Indian Wells, will face Kyrgios, 21, for the second time on Friday in the quarterfinals. Kyrgios prevailed 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12) in the second round at Madrid on clay in 2015.
   The hard-serving but mercurial Kyrgios, seeded 15th and ranked 16th, improved to 2-0 against Djokovic, seeded and ranked second, with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory. Kyrgios reached the semifinals of the 2013 Sacramento Challenger at 18.
   When Kyrgios beat Djokovic 7-6 (9), 7-5 in the quarterfinals at Acapulco, the tournament before Indian Wells, he joined countryman Lleyton Hewitt as the only players to win their first matches against Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.
   "I'm very impressed with him taking out Novak in back-to-back weeks on Novak's best surface," Federer said. "I hope it's going to lead to something great for Nick, that he realizes if he puts his head down and focuses that he can bring it, day in and day out, week in and week out.  
   "When it matters the most against the best and in finals, he's there. ... Of course, I'd like to get him back."
   Djokovic has won Indian Wells five times, including the last three years.
   "The run was amazing," he said, "I am very proud of it, obviously. It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today. Nick, as he did in Acapulco, served so well. I just wasn't managing to get a lot of balls back on his serve, first and second. That's what made a difference."
   In the second-set tiebreaker, Kyrgios hit a 126-mph (202.8-kph) second-serve ace.
   "He obviously comes out playing his style, very aggressive, and just going for every serve, whether it's first or second," Djokovic said. "It's obviously very hard to play like that."
   Since opening the season with the Doha title (saving five match points against Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals), Djokovic has failed to reach the semifinals in his three tournaments. The six-time Australian Open champion lost to Denis Istomin in the second round at Melbourne.
Since opening the season with the Doha title, Djokovic has failed to reach the
semifinals in his three tournaments. Photo by Mal Taam
   Another former Australian Open champion, Stan Wawrinka, almost joined Djokovic on the sideline on Wednesday. The third-seeded Wawrinka edged lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka, 21, of Japan 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Wawrinka will meet No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem, who dispatched No. 10 Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2.
   Japan will, however, have a player in the quarterfinals. No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori reached that stage for the second straight year, eliminating Donald Young of Atlanta 6-2, 6-4.
   Nishikori will face No. 17 seed Jack Sock. The top-ranked American at No. 18, Sock beat Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5.
   No. 27 seed Pablo Cuevas, coming off his third consecutive Sao Paulo title on clay, surprised No. 11 and 2016 semifinalist David Goffin of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Cuevas, from Uruguay, will play another Pablo, No. 21 Carreno Busta of Spain.
   On the women's side, No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova reached the semifinals for the second straight year. The 25-year-old Czech topped No. 7 Garbine Muguruza of Spain 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5).
   Pliskova will take on No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated No. 19 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Russian encounter.
   The semifinal matchups in the bottom half of the draw will be determined today.
   Sam Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, and Gilles Muller, a 33-year-old left-hander from Luxembourg, edged No. 3 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia 6-7 (2), 6-3 [10-6] in the quarterfinals.

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