By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Nick Kyrgios blasted 14 aces dismantling defending Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Photo credit: Matt Hazlett/BNP Paribas Open
The ball blurred by leaving Novak Djokovic gazing down at his racquet with the futile expression of a man trying to catch a gale storm with a spaghetti strainer.
Nick Kyrgios wasn’t in a chatty mood today, but his serve was screaming.
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The man with the modified lightning bolt carved into the side of his head thundered 14 aces dismantling defending BNP Paribas Open champion Djokovic, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in an audacious performance of power and creativity.
"I think beating Djokovic for anyone is a pretty big win, especially for me," Kyrgios said afterward. "Yeah, it just felt good. I competed for every point. It was hot out there. We played for two hours. It was just a good, honest win.
"Yeah, I mean, I think there would be something wrong if I wasn't a bit happy after that."
Clad in lime-and-green, the explosive Aussie transformed the second largest tennis stadium court in North America into a boom box repeatedly splattering 130 mph bolts off the back wall.
Kyrgios did not face a break point disarming the world's premier returner to snap Djokovic’s 19-match Indian Wells winning streak with conviction.
"On his first serves, to try to anticipate and read his serve, where he's going to go 140 miles per hour down the T and also pretty good angle wide, so it's hard to position yourself well," Djokovic told the media afterward. "Let's call it that way. It is a gamble. His second serve, if you think you're going to have a look at it, you don't, because he goes for it, as well.
"He didn't make too many double faults. As I said, you know, in this kind of conditions, it's quite suitable for the server. Puts a lot of pressure on your service games. You need to deliver and you can't fold, which I did in the opening game of the match. Obviously, the dynamic of the match already went his way in the first/second game."
It was Kyrgios’ second straight-sets win over Djokovic in the past two weeks following a monstrous 25-ace performance in a 7-6, 7-5 victory in Acapulco. It sends the 15th-seeded Aussie into his first Indian Wells quarterfinal against either Australian Open champion Roger Federer or three-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Exhorting himself after some strikes, Kyrgios exuded more energy at the outset.
The five-time champion, perhaps depleted going three sets with Juan Martin del Potro last night, came out flat, wasn’t moving with his typical urgency and struggled to read his opponent’s menacing serve squinting through the sun-swept court.
A backhand pass down the line helped Kyrgios break to open. In an early flare of fireworks to come, he darted an ace down the middle confirming the break at 15.
Unleashing a barrage of three aces, Kyrgios blasted through an 80-second hold for 4-2.
The second-seeded Serbian pressured his opponent’s serve for the first time at 30-all in the eighth game. Kyrgios answered blistering an eye-popping 98 mph forehand crosscourt while leaping backward for good measure.That strike helped him hold for 5-3.
Firing himself up, Djokovic held in the ninth game then won a 33-shot rally on a netted drop shot to reach 15-30 as Kyrgios served for the set.
Electrifying athleticism from both men popped as Djokovic stretched for a superb stretch volley only to see Kyrgios slide into a brilliant backhand pass and erupt tugging at his green top set point.
Kyrgios slammed his seventh ace of the set— a 133 mph missile—that boomed off the back wall closing the 47-minute set with a bang, winning 13 of 15 first-serve points.
An annoyed Djokovic wound up and spiked his racquet off the purple court in disgust.
Destruction was liberating: Djokovic breezed through successive love holds to start the second set. Kyrgios cranked through a two-ace game closing with a 133 body serve holding for 2-all.
At that point, Kyrgios had hammered 11 aces with no double faults winning 19 of 22 first-serve points without facing a break point.
"It's a high percentage for me to go big under pressure," Kyrgios said. "That's my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game."
A primary problem for the game’s greatest returner in this match-up: Djokovic cannot read Kyrgios’ quick-action serve.
An even bigger obstacle: Kyrgios can hit every spot in the box and brand 130 mph heat into the rib cage when he hits the body serve.
Rarely do you see the 12-time Grand Slam champion look haunted on court.
Kyrgios spooked the Serbian with a snaking serve that was easier to hear than see and by the mischievous mix of paces that saw the Aussie sometimes float no-pace balls down the middle then suddenly laser a flat drive down the line.
Kyrgios has an unsettling effect on Djokovic because he doesn’t know what’s coming next and because Kyrgios can press emotional buttons. Kyrgios likes to engage the crowd and can annoy jumping into a Marcelo Rios-style drop shot, waving a Djokovic lob long or pausing to tie his shoe late in the second set as the Roland Garros champion prepared to serve.
"It's his style," Djokovic said. "There is not many players like him on the tour, and, you know, he plays a certain way, and talks and behaves a certain way, which is characteristic for him."
Catching Djokovic leaning toward the T, Kyrgios crossed him up slashing his 12th ace out wide for 4-all.
Deadlocked at 30-all in the ninth game, Djokovic hung tough when Kyrgios flattened a forehand into net then poked a stretch backhand into net.
The crowd buzz spiked as Djokovic reached deuce on the Aussie’s serve for the first time all day. Kyrgios snuffed out the uprising with a forehand and 137 mph serve for 5-all.
In the 11th game, Djokovic showed cool defiance squeezing a forehand pass down the line to save a second break point and following it up with a backhand crosscourt to work through a pressure hold.
Bursting out to a 3-0 lead in the tie break, Kyrgios curled a second serve ace for 4-2 then exploited two errors to earn match points.
After missing the mark indulging in a failed tweener lob, Kyrgios cranked a massive serve wide, screamed in celebration and belted a ball into the crowd capping an impressive performance.