Five years after that epic Wimbledon clash that the 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios won against Rafael Nadal, two rivals were on the court again in the third round and this time it was the two-time champion who celebrated the triumph.
After three hours and three minutes, Rafa prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a high-quality encounter that drew the best from both players, especially from the third set when Nick left tantrums behind and stayed on the same level with world no.
2 all the time. Firing 29 aces and 58 winners, Nick suffered two breaks from five opportunities offered to Rafa who also got broken twice from as many chances given to the Aussie, with nothing to separate them in set three and four where servers had a clear edge over the returners.
In the end, Nadal won 14 points more than Kyrgios to celebrate a deserved victory, making almost no mistakes in both tie breaks to overpower the rival who defeated him in Acapulco after wasting three match points. They exchanged some harsh words in the next couple of months and again recently but almost everything was fine on the court besides some tantrums from Nick early on.
Rafa was the better player in the opening set, producing the right strokes at the right time and dropping only three points behind the initial shot. Nick needed some time to find the rhythm losing serve already in the second game after a smash winner from Nadal who never lost focus, sailing through service games to bring the set home with another smash winner at 5-3.
Eager to change things on the court, Kyrgios started to hit with more flame in set number two, counting to 15 winners and keeping himself in contention mentally despite his usual tantrums towards the chair umpire. The Aussie landed a forehand down the line winner in game two to open up a lead, fending off a couple of break points in the next game to cement the advantage and gather the necessary boost.
Out of sudden, Rafa pulled the break back in game seven when Nick netted a forehand but that break at love wasn't enough for the Spaniard to get back to the positive side of the scoreboard, getting broken again a few minutes later and allowing Kyrgios to serve for the set.
The Aussie blasted a service winner for a 6-3, leveling the overall score to 1-1 after just 70 minutes and looking much better on the court now. Both players served on a high level in the third set and there was nothing for the returners to work with, setting up a tie break where Rafa moved 5-2 up, clinching the breaker 7-5 with a forehand down the line winner to roar towards his chair, mighty relieved to get in front again.
Nothing could have separated the rivals in the fourth set as well and another tie break was inevitable, a must-win one for Kyrgios if he wanted to stay in the tournament. The more experienced player scored an early mini-break after a terrible mistake from Nick at the net and crossed the finish line in the tenth point for a 7-3 and the place in the last 32.