The Swiss Roger Federer fell to the voracity of the Australian Nick Kyrgios, against whom he wasted two match points, while the Spanish Rafael Nadal remained cautious in his debut against the American Steve Johnson at the Mutua Madrid Open, to achieve the round of 16. final.
In an endless day in which three of the first four central matches went to three sets, Kyrgios caused the first big surprise of the tournament by dethroning Federer, champion three times in Madrid, 6-7 (2), 7 -6 (5) and 7-6 (12) after two hours and 37 minutes.
The new Australian pearl broke a statistic that has been almost a law in the Basel player’s clashes with youngsters born since 1990. Until this Wednesday he only had two defeats against them in 29 games, that of the Argentine Federico Delbonis in Hamburg in 2013, and against Canadian Milos Raonic at Paris Bercy last year.
That experience, relaxation and feeling of not perceiving danger made Federer an impregnable player against youngsters who want to inscribe their name as a notch on their racket, but today they disappeared before the audacity of Kyrgios, a brilliant quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, endowed with a tennis capable of doing damage also on clay courts, as he showed in Estoril last week by reaching the semi-finals.
Kyrgios scored 22 aces and took Federer into the abyss six times in the final tie-break of the match. A long forehand, off the track, was his farewell to Madrid, and perhaps the welcome to Rome, a tournament that he kept in doubt on his calendar, depending on how far he went in the Caja Mágica. “I don’t know, we’ll see,” he said laconically.
The Swiss, who lost in 2014 against the Japanese Kei Nishikori in the third round, had arrived this year with confidence thanks to his title in Istanbul, but without his family, because his wife Mirka Vavrinec has preferred to stay in Switzerland with their four children celebrating the first birth of the last two twins, Leo and Lenny, and without their main trainer, the Swedish Stefan Edberg.
Kyrgios will now face the American John Isner, who defeated the Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (11) and 6-1.
Nadal was cautious because a year after winning the last of the 27 Masters 1000 he has on these same tracks, his excessive energy from other seasons must be controlled, because he still lacks confidence in his shots. He beat the American Steve Johnson, 54 in the world, 6-4, 6-3, and then admitted that he had played to win easily, without complicating his existence.
Nadal has begun in Madrid a fight against several fronts. He returns to the Spanish capital where he has won the last two years. He does it with his old racket that gives him more security, and to which he has added half a kilo more tension in his strings to tie his shots even more, and he tests himself thoroughly because he needs to gain confidence before Paris arrives in something more than two weeks.
On that road to the French capital, with a previous visit to Rome, where he lost in 2014 in the final against Novak Djokovic, Rafa defends 1,600 points. Accumulation of circumstances that for another player could be too heavy a slab, especially if one takes into account that the only title he has won this year has been in Buenos Aires, and not precisely in a season on European soil.
Johnson, who saved a match point against Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez in the previous match, and who had only won one match on clay before this season (Houston), served as good preparation.
Rafa released his punches as the match wore on, getting comfortable with his backhand and activating his legs. Three breaks, one in the fifth game of the first set and another two in the second act, were enough.
The American jumped onto the court with a lesson well learned: squeeze with his serve, use the dropshot as much as possible, and create doubts in Nadal. But in this first meeting with the Spaniard he was barely able to play as planned. In less than an hour and a quarter, Johnson said goodbye to Madrid.
Nadal’s road to Sunday’s final now passes against the Italian Simone Bolelli, who beat his compatriot Luca Vanni, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Nadal has defeated Bolelli, 63 in the world, in the four times they have faced each other, and in the only one on clay, at Roland Garros in 2012, he overwhelmed him 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
The day provided that in the round of 16 there is a Spanish duel between David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco. Ferrer beat Albert Ramos (6-4, 6-0) and Verdasco beat Croatian Marin Cilic, former US Open champion, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Roberto Bautista joined the Spanish duo with a victory against American Sam Querrey, 7-5, 6-4, but Feliciano López fell to Argentine Leonardo Mayer, 76 (3), 7-6 (6). EFE.