This match was a highly anticipated second round encounter between arguably the GOAT and the brightest young star of the tennis world. And it didn’t fail to live up to its billing. Kyrgios won the encounter 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) in surely the best three-set match of the year so far, if not the best match. It’s unfortunate that there had to be a loser because both players were playing phenomenal tennis. Neither player deserved to lose and it was unfortunate that they had to meet so early in the draw.
Kyrgios got off to the ideal start as he broke Roger in the opening game. It was clear he meant business as he let rip with a big ‘Come on!’ when he won break point. But since Roger found his clay court game in Istanbul he broke back with a terrific game when Kyrgios was serving for the first set at 5-4. Both players continued to hold serve and in the tie-break Kyrgios lost his cool after a poor line call. He got a code violation and didn’t recover as he lost the tie-break 7-2. After the early danger, it looked like Kyrgios’ youthful outburst would cost him the match.
That seemed to be especially the case when Roger got the break at the beginning of the second set as well. But this Kyrgios is just a remarkable player for his age. He broke back in the fourth game to even the score at 2-2 and again he let rip with a massive ‘Come on!’. The second set came down to a tie-break too and this time it was Kyrgios who raced to a 5-1 lead. Roger did well to pull it back to 5-6, but Kyrgios made no mistake on his own serve when he pounded down another big first serve to claim the second set.
It was down to a deciding set to decide who would be the winner of what had already developed into a very good match. And fittingly it would be decided by a tie-break after there were no more breaks in the third set. And what a tie-break it was. Kyrgios got the mini-break twice, but Roger pulled him back on both occasions. At 8-8 in the tie-break, Kyrgios set up a match point on his own serve with a ballsy drop shot that Roger could not reach. I thought he had it in the bag, but Roger came up with a strong backhand drive that forced Kyrgios into error. At 12-12, Kyrgios came up with another gutsy play as he forced the error from Roger with a forehand drive I think. Then at 13-12 he finally held serve to win the classic encounter as Roger hit a forehand well wide.
I think at the end if there was any difference at all between the two players it was that Kyrgios’ was just a tad more clutch than Roger. First he came back from a set and a break down and then in the final set breaker he was just a bit bolder than Roger. There was just a sense that he was playing with a little more freedom but like I said there was very little between the two. It was a tough draw and loss for Roger but he won’t feel too bad about it. At least now he can play Rome without having any doubts about it. And I’m sure he will get a better draw in Rome. It is a shame that his draw was so tough in Madrid because he clearly found his clay court game in Instanbul, was playing very well, and the altitude suits his game. But you can’t win them all and an awful lot of credit must go to Kyrgios who played a remarkable match. After the first set and a break down you thought he lost it because of immaturity, but then he comes back to win the match in a high-pressure third set tie-break.
I’m not crazy about Kyrgios’ cocky personality, but you can’t deny that he has big match temperament and that he is the next big thing in tennis. His serve is exceptional, he has a huge forehand, a very solid backhand, he has an all-court game, and he is mentally very good. He can clearly also play very well on clay, which is something I wasn’t sure about with his attacking game style. I mean he has it all. Almost all tennis players are arrogant anyway. Kyrgios just more so. A nice thing he said at the end of the match is that Roger is the GOAT to him and that this was his biggest win yet, even bigger than the win against Nadal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios’ serve is really exceptional and Roger said afterward that he couldn’t return it properly. But probably for me what made the difference in the end was the total abandon Kyrgios’ played with. We saw the same against Nadal at Wimbledon. He doesn’t get down on himself at all and he doesn’t fear anyone. He was asked afterward about playing Roger and he said it was just another match.
Elsewhere in the draw
Nadal’s cakewalk draw began today against Johnson who had a pathetic backhand that he kept slicing which is a terrible tactic against Nadal on clay. Nadal didn’t impress at all, but the organizers made sure he got a very comfortable opener to get some confidence going. And now he plays Bolelli after the seed Anderson already lost first round. At least Stan won a match for a change and now plays Dimitrov again after he tanked against Dimitrov in Monte Carlo.
Hopefully, his issues are sorted out by now and he will play seriously against Dimitrov this time. He could definitely beat Nadal if he plays well, but that is still a big if. And at least Kyrgios, Isner, Tsonga, and Berdych are all alive in the top quarter which means Nadal will have to face a big server with big ground strokes in the semis. So actually Nadal’s draw can still be a decent challenge. As for Nishikori he just won 6-4 in the third against Goffin which I am relieved to see. His draw is tough and I hope he makes the final in case Nadal is waiting there. Finally, Murray is still on court against Kohlschreiber and is a break up in the first set. That about concludes my coverage for the day. It’s a shame Roger lost today because he finally found his game on clay and was actually looking very good again. I would have loved to see him play more matches and go deep here. But at least he can play Rome now and I am still hopeful that he can go deep there and in Paris.