Rafa Nadal has set up a mouthwatering clash with Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells in the latest chapter to their spicy rivalry.
Nadal extended his unbeaten streak in 2022 to 18 matches on Wednesday after battling past Reilly Opelka 7-6 (3) 7-6 (5).
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“He is one of the most difficult players to play on the tour,” Nadal said of his 6-foot-11 opponent.
“I think I played my best match of the tournament.”
The 35-year-old Spaniard, who won a record-setting 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, stayed on track for a fourth title in the California desert.
Nadal also lifted the trophy in Acapulco last month and won in Melbourne in the lead-up to the Australian Open.
The Spaniard had to weather a barrage of big shots from Opelka, including a raft of serves that topped the 225km / h mark.
Nadal became just the second player to start a season 18-0 since the ATP Tour launched in 1990.
Novak Djokovic has done it twice, starting 41-0 in 2011 and 26-0 in 2020.
Nadal will now meet Kyrgios in the quarter-finals in the ninth match of their fiery rivalry.
“He’s playing great, everyone knows how good he is when he’s motivated,” Nadal said of playing Kyrgios.
“It will be a good test for me and a good challenge, I’m very excited to be in the quarter-finals.”
Nadal owns a 5-3 head-to-head advance over Kyrgios, who famously beat the 21-time grand slam champion in the Wimbledon fourth round in 2016.
Fans took to social media in anticipation of what should be a blockbuster quarter-final.
Nick Kyrgios advances after walkover
Kyrgios earlier advanced to the quarter-finals without needing to hit a ball after Italian young gun Jannik Sinner withdrew before their match due to illness.
How Alex de Minaur’s attempt to join his fellow Australian in the next round was thwarted by California local Taylor Fritz 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5).
The 29th-seeded de Minaur took the first set but Fritz fought back to prevail in a third-set tiebreaker.
De Minaur was up an early break in the deciding set before he battled back from a break down.
The tie-breaker went with serve until the 12th point when 20th-seed Fritz forced a backhand error from de Minaur.
De Minaur is now 0-7 in round of 16 matches at ATP Masters 1000 events.
Fritz moves on to play Unseeded Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, who stunned world No.6 Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-4.
Kecmanovic absorbed his opponent’s power serve in the first set, converting on a break point chance in the fourth game, as a frustrated Berrettini won just eight return points.
Italian Berrettini, who reached his first grand slam final at Wimbledon last year, won a tense tiebreak to level proceedings.
Kecmanovic kept the press on Berrettini in the deciding set and pounced to break serve to love in the final game.
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