On an action packed day at the first ATP 1000 event of 2017, Roger Federer put on a masterly display of attacking tennis to beat his arch rival Rafael Nadal in a repeat of the Australian Open final in January this year. Federer, the four time champion beat the three time champion Nadal 6-2, 6-3 to set up a quarter final showdown with the Australian Nick Kyrgios who ended Novak Djokovic’s run of 19 consecutive wins in Indian Wells with a straight set 6-4, 7-6(3) upset win over the second seed.
Federer was the first to get off the blocks as Nadal failed to hold on to two game points in the opening game to go down 0-1. He then could only get a racket on the only break point opportunity he had in the next game as Federer consolidated his break and then went 4-1 up breaking the Spaniard in the fifth game. He then held his own service games to close out the first set in only 34 minutes.
There was no respite for the fifth seeded Nadal as the ninth seeded Federer broke serve in the third and ninth game of the second set to record a 6-2,6-3 win. It was the first time that Federer has beaten Nadal in three consecutive matches, but Nadal still leads the head to head record between the two at 23-13, thanks largely to a 13-2 record on his best surface red clay.
Just like he did in Acapulco two weeks ago, Kyrgios relied on his big first serve against Djokovic who on Tuesday became only the third player in history to record 300 match win in Masters Series events joining Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Kyrgios broke in the opening game of the match and had chances for a double break in the third and seventh games which he could not convert.
It did not matter as he lost only seven points on serve in the entire first set which he won 6-4. Djokovic saved two break points in the eleventh game of the second set but Kyrgios sealed the one hour fifty minute match with a 7-3 scoreline in the second set tie-break. That sets up a meeting in the last eight against Federer on Friday.
Only three out of the top eight seeds have taken their appointed places in the last eight. Stanislas Wawrinka came from a break down in the final set against lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan as he rallied to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in two hours and 14 minutes to set up a quarter final on Thursday evening against the Austrian Dominic Thiem who easily prevailed 6-3, 6-2 over the 10th seeded Gael Monfils, the last Frenchman left in the draw. The fourth seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan has progressed virtually unnoticed without dropping a set in three matches so far after a 6-2, 6-4 demolition of the left handed American Donald Young.
Jack Sock, though, ensured that there would at least one American in the last eight as he overcame the Tunisian Malek Jaziri 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-5 in two hours and thirty seven minutes. The 17th seeded Sock who had upset Grigor Dmitrov in the previous round goes on to face 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori on Friday, in the quarter finals.
The first quarter final to be played in the afternoon on Thursday, will feature the 21st seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta against the 27th seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. Busta took full advantage of the walkover he received from his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut as he beat another Serb Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6(5). The Argentina born Cuevas, who won last week in Sao Paolo, Brazil upset last year’s semi finalist David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
The following is the quarter final line up with my pick mentioned first :-
Pablo Cuevas (27) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (21); Cuevas leads 3-1
Stanislas Wawrinka (3) v. Dominic Thiem (8); Wawrinka leads 2-1
Kei Nishikori (4) v. Jack Sock (17); tied 1-1
Roger Federer (9) v. Nick Kyrgios (15); Kyrgios leads 1-0
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]