Rafael Nadal continues his run at the ongoing Aussie Open edging out emotional Nick Kyrgios 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-6 Monday to set up a quarterfinal clash with Austrian Dominic Thiem on Wednesday.
The sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning hit Kyrgios so hard he merely managed to put himself together for the all-important tie against Nadal.
The 24 year old who is current world number 26, walked on court with tears in his eyes and an LA Lakers No.8 on in memory of Kobe Bryant.
Nick Kyrgios then attempted to honour the memory of one of his basketball heroes with victory at the Australian Open, only to run into the wall that is Rafael Nadal.
The much-hyped fourth round was again an impressive psychodrama that included a wealth of wonderful points, but as at Wimbledon the Spaniard came through with a four set win, progressing via the same scoreline, 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-6, in three hours and 38 minutes.
Having pulled on his sensible tennis gear before walking out for the first point, Kyrgios played it relatively straight and had a real chance at 5-5 in the third set tiebreak, only to double fault with a 135mph second serve.
After losing that 8-6 he again dug deep – especially for someone with suspect stamina – to come back from a break down in the fourth and force another, which he was to lose 7-4 before leaving to huge ovation.
It was a match about emotions, and the great concentrator Nadal just about edged it, but only after a real fight. Kyrgios has won a lot of friends this month on Australia, but now the challenge will be to back this up for month upon month, something he has previously failed to do. His talent is, of course, not in question and never has been.
This was the most anticipated contest of the tournament, given their fractious history that had seen the Australian win three matches out of seven, and both players were nervous at the start.
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Nadal served two double faults in his first service game, which Kyrgios could not take advantage of, and then settled down into his rhythm while his opponent made too many errors.
Nadal will next battle Dominc Thiem who defeated Taylor Fritz.