Nadal beats Kyrgios in 3 sets at Indian Wells, goes to 19-0

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Rafael Nadal defeated Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (0), 5-7, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in a match featuring obscenities, underhand serves, a point penalty and smashed rackets.

Nadal improved to 19-0 this year, the third-best start to a season since 1990.

“Happy about that third set because it wasn’t easy after the end of the second. It was terrible for me,” he said. “But I hold it emotionally, and mentally, I think I was ready to keep fighting.”

After the post-match handshake, Kyrgios walked to his seat and smashed his racket on the court. It bounced up and away, nearly striking a ball boy standing at the back of the court. Kyrgios walked off to a mix of boos and cheers.

“It landed a meter from my foot and skidded and nearly hit him,” Kyrgios said. “I’m human. Things happen like that. Obviously, it was a very misfortunate bounce. I think if I did that a million times over it wouldn’t have gone that way.”

Nadal was on his side of the court and said he didn’t see Kyrgios toss his racket after the match.

“I think Nick had a great attitude during the whole match in terms of fighting spirit, and of course he has his personality, his character,” Nadal said. “Sometimes he does things that I don’t like, but I respect because of different character, different kind of points of view, and different kind of education.”

Trailing 0-6 in the first-set tiebreaker, Kyrgios was serving when the chair umpire assessed him a point penalty for an audible obscenity to a fan, giving Nadal the set. Kyrgios dropped the balls he was holding and calmly walked to his seat.

In the sixth game of the first set, Kyrgios led 40-love when he served underhanded. Nadal stepped up and bashed a forehand winner down the line. Kyrgios responded with a 140-mph ace to go up 4-2. He also had leads of 3-1 and 5-3 in the set.

Nadal won three straight games to lead 6-5 in the first. On the changeover, Kyrgios angrily tossed his racket. He gave the bent racket to a young boy in the stands.

“I was two points away from the first set and I felt like if I had won that first set, the way I was playing, I could have run away with it,” Kyrgios said. “So obviously, I was frustrated, but it was a hell of a match.”

Early in the second set, the chair umpire scolded a man in the stands who repeatedly yelled, “Nick! Nick!” The umpire said, “Ten thousand people want to watch tennis and you’re the only one screaming.” The man piped down. Later, the umpire told the crowd not to yell out between first and second serves.

Tied 3-all in the second set and serving at 40-love, Kyrgios served an underhanded ace to go up 4-3. They stayed on serve until Kyrgios broke Nadal in the 12th game. Nadal’s drop shot caught Kyrgios by surprise and the Australian let loose with an F-bomb during the point. He recovered to make the return, Nadal sent it back and Kyrgios won the set with a leaping backhand volley.

Tied 2-all in the third, Kyrgios engaged with a spectator sitting next to actor Ben Stiller. Uninterested in the man’s suggestions on how to play, Kyrgios replied that he didn’t tell Stiller how to act.

“When you’re a spectator and you’re watching professionals play tennis, you should just be quiet,” Kyrgios said. “Like, just sit and enjoy the show. I thought it was a pretty high-level match and I’m just asking for a little bit of respect.”

The interaction didn’t deter the Aussie. He fought off a break point and took a 3-2 lead with back-to-back aces at 140 mph and 137 mph.

Kyrgios double-faulted on game point to trail 4-3. Kyrgios held to lead 5-4, but Nadal closed out the 2-hour, 46-minute match by serving a love game. He set up match point with a 116-mph ace and then hit a forehand winner off a short ball.

“He played a few points well and he got out of it and that’s what he does,” Kyrgios said. “That’s what makes him great.”

Defending women’s champion Paula Badosa advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. Badosa next plays No. 6 seed Maria Sakkari, who defeated Elena Rybakina, 7-5, 6-4.

The other semifinal features No. 3 Iga Swiatek against 2015 champion Simona Halep.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”