Madrid Masters 2016: Kyrgios downs Wawrinka, but Simon and Nishikori survive tests

Nick Kyrgios is through to the third round of the Madrid Masters after knocking out Stan Wawrinka

To say that the opening match for No4 seed Stan Wawrinka was eagerly anticipated is something of an understatement. For it pitched the 31-year-old Swiss against an old but very young adversary in 21-year-old Nick Kyrgios, one of tennis’s freshest talents and a leading light of the tour’s #NextGeneration.

The extrovert and exciting young Australian is hovering on the edge of a career-high top 20, won his first title in Marseille earlier this year, made his first Masters semi run in Miami last month, and backed it up with some clay form in Estoril last week, where he also reached the semis.

He is, too, a crowd-pleaser, by turns thrilling and creative, moody and frustrating, but there is no doubting the appeal of his talent and devil-may-care image. And it was these very qualities that made this match-up such a pull in Madrid.

This would be Kyrgios’s fourth meeting in under a year against Wawrinka, and while their first at Queen’s was a relatively uneventful win for the reigning French Open champion, their next would draw ill words from Wawrinka and censure from the ATP after Kyrgios made comments about the Swiss man’s off-court relationship. It ended with retirement in the third set by Wawrinka.

Their third match was in the Dubai semis earlier this year, and that too would be cut short by injury, this time by Kyrgios in the second set, and Wawrinka went on to win the title, his second of the year.

In short, they had yet to play out a complete match since their very public spat, so the crowd that packed out the intimate box of Court No3 was a lively one.

They were also delivered a match that ticked all the right boxes: Closely matched, intense on both sides, full of sparkling shot-making, deft net craft, and testing rallies.

Wawrinka’s serving proved to be irresistible through the entire match—he faced not a break point—but he would live to rue his inability to take advantage of four break chances against Kyrgios in the first set, in the fourth game and again in the eighth. But a combination of disguised drop shots and some timely aces from the Aussie kept him on level terms and they headed to a tie-break.

There, Kyrgios took a quick lead, 3-0, but dropped a point for 4-3 when an ace was called out. He was briefly distracted, and Wawrinka turned it in his favour, 5-4, but Kyrgios produced a stunning backhand winner for 5-5. Wawrinka then failed to convert a set point and but come Kyrgios’s turn, he made no mistake, 7-6(7), having won just a single point more than Wawrinka.

The second set was even tighter, and at an even higher level, with both men hitting almost twice the winners to errors. There was not a break point in sight and by the time they reached another tie-break, Wawrinka had lost only four points on serve and Kyrgios just two—and the younger man would not lose another point on his serve. He took a 5-2 lead with a net-cord winner, and forced two more errors from his opponent for a convincing victory, 7-6(2), in an hour and three-quarters.

Kyrgios will next play the winner of two clay titles this year, Pablo Cuevas, or Monte-Carlo finalist, Gael Monfils.

Both opponents, though, along with everyone else in the draw, will recognise that Kyrgios is proving to be one of the most dangerous #NextGen players on the tour: This was his eighth top-10 win, not forgetting in particular that he beat Roger Federer in three tie-break sets at this very stage last year.

Another of Kyrgios’s victims this year, twice, is No8 seed Tomas Berdych, who enjoyed one of the easiest victories of the day over Denis Istomin, 6-3, 6-3, in 69 minutes, and will next face either David Ferrer or Denis Kudla.

Other seeds found progress altogether tougher. No15 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who also has two titles this year, took three hours to beat fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who has played in all 15 Madrid Masters. Bautista Agut’s 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 win avenged their even longer contest in Indian Wells in March.

No6 seed Kei Nishikori looked beaten when Fabio Fognini served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but broke back, held, and then broke again to love with a backhand return-of-serve winner, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

The Japanese man will now face No10 seed Richard Gasquet, who survived his own three-set marathon last night to beat Fernando Verdasco.

No16 seed Gilles Simon came back from a set down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, to set up a meeting with Andy Murray, and unseeded Sam Querry beat young qualifier Lucas Pouille 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.

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