Ever since the draw came out, Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios were set to play an entertaining third-round clash in Madrid 2017, with the Spaniard keeping the battle only on paper! Rafa proved to be too good for Nick on that day, beating the Aussie 6-3, 6-1 in 72 minutes to reach his eighth Madrid Masters quarter-final in nine editions in Caja Magica.
It was the third meeting between these two, with Nick stunning Rafa at Wimbledon 2014 and making him run for his money a year ago in Rome, winning the opening set before Nadal turned the match into his favor. There was only one player on the court in Madrid three years ago, though, with Nadal playing one of his best matches of the season to reach the last eight.
He completely tamed Kyrgios's shots and was the dominant figure in the rallies, staying away from mistakes and not letting Nick dictate the points. Of course, the younger player tried to impose his strokes, with no other way to hurt Nadal on the slowest surface, although he couldn't reach Nadal's level, making way too many easy errors and never finding the right rhythm.
It was the first tournament for Nick on clay that year, skipping Estoril due to his grandfather's death, going home to Australia and not preparing well for Madrid. Kyrgios would have needed his best tennis if he wanted to challenge such a strong rival anyway, as Nadal played on a high level from start to finish.
The Spaniard served well, untroubled in his service games besides the break he suffered in the fifth game of the opener, playing equally good on the return to steal 55% of the points on Nick's serve! Rafa dropped just ten points on serve (four in that game when he got broken) and was all over his rival on the return, creating 11 break chances and converting five for a commanding triumph.
Kyrgios had 11 service winners, struggling to make an impact with his initial shot outside that. Nadal's returns were deep and accurate, taking time off from the opponent's shots and neutralizing quick serve & forehand combos that Nick certainly wanted to explore.
Even when he had the opportunity to push Nadal further away from the baseline or make him more uncomfortable, Kyrgios couldn't endure the rallies, rushing with the attacks and never finding his game. They had a similar number of free points from the serve alone, 11 for Nick and ten for Rafa, and the Aussie expected the much more significant gap in that segment in his favor.
Kyrgios hit 16 winners from the field but Nadal went to a mighty impressive 24, 12 from forehand and an additional eight from a backhand wing! To make things even better, Rafa hit 17 of these winners in the second set alone, leaving Kyrgios utterly hopeless.
Nadal had seven unforced errors, keeping his shots well-balanced while Nick committed 22, way too many to stay within any chance for a better result. The number of forced errors was similar and the Aussie made three double faults more than his rival, some of them in critical moments to make the things worse.
55% of the points ended in the shortest range up to four shots and Nadal had a 34-25 edge in them. The Spaniard was even better in the mid-range rallies from five to eight strokes, with 25-10 lead, which is the best illustrator how poor Nick was in constructing the points.
There were just 13 points with nine or more strokes and Rafa won eight of those to complete his domination in both the quickest and more extended exchanges. It was a good start for both players in the first three games, just like everybody was hoping for, and Nick looked determined to fight until the final point, blasting a 172 km/h forehand winner in that third game.
Nonetheless, he failed to control his shots in the fourth game, allowing Nadal to grab a break after a lucky net cord for a 3-1 advantage. He couldn't stay in front for too long, though, as Kyrgios broke back immediately to cut the deficit to 3-2.
He was returning well and avoided errors, finishing the game with a beautiful backhand down the line winner to get back to the positive side of the scoreboard. In game six, Nick wasted a game point and dropped serve after a costly double fault, falling 4-2 behind and sending momentum to the other side of the court.
After those six games, Nick had nine winners and unforced errors each, which wasn't enough to have a positive result against Nadal who settled into a nice rhythm already. Rafa held at love to move 5-2 ahead, leaving Nick to serve to stay in the set and missing a chance for another break in that eighth game after spraying a forehand error.
Rafa closed the set on his serve in game nine with the second consecutive hold at love, happy with the way he performed in the opener and hoping for more of the same in set number two. They both had five service winners and Nick hit ten winners from the court compared to seven from Rafa.
On the other hand, the Aussie also made 13 unforced errors, eight more than Nadal, and had six forced mistakes while the Spaniard stayed on two. The first game of the second set was by far the longest of the match and it was all or nothing fo Nick, hitting winners and unforced errors while Rafa waited patiently for his chance for an early break.
Kyrgios wasted three game points in the first game and got broken when Nadal found a return winner after five deuces, getting into a driving seat to bring the match home soon. In his remaining three service games, Nadal dropped only two points, offering Nick not even a glimpse of a chance that he could get back on the scoreboard or prolong the match.
Kyrgios got broken at love in the third game, fading from the court and waiting for everything to be over. In game five, the youngster held after three deuces, taking a 12-stroke rally to get his name on the scoreboard before Nadal sealed the deal with another break in game seven after a colossal forehand error from Kyrgios.
In set number two, we saw picture-perfect Nadal who had 17 winners and just two unforced errors in seven games played! Kyrgios had six winners and nine unforced mistakes, unable to take one or two games more against the opponent who raised the bar too high.