The talented 20-year-old performed fantastically under pressure to prevail against world number 12, Milos Raonic in straight sets – with a first Masters 1000 semi-final next up.
Having prevailed in their previous encounter, back at Wimbledon last year during a four-set thriller, Nick Kyrgios ultimately had nothing to lose during his quarter-final encounter against world number 12, Milos Raonic in the Miami sunset.
Understandably, the talented 20-year-old Australian would’ve wanted to repeat his impressive victory over a player with the potential of easily breaking into the world’s top ten – and you could tell from the early exchanges that a coveted spot in this year’s semi-finals wasn’t going to be relinquished easily by either man.
A fast-paced, unpredictable – but entertaining – first set
The first game itself was a fair barometer of the back-and-forth nature between the two: Kyrgios’ skills on-show, his raw power but equally Raonic’s sharp movement around the court, and how he was able to use it to good effect – but for a few frustrating unforced errors.
Raonic manoeuvred himself well and it was ultimately a matter of time before he eventually got a game on the scoreboard. 2-1 down, with plenty of rallies for the late supporters to enjoy, the Canadian was comfortable to match Kyrgios’ power with intelligent, big returns forcing the Aussie deep into his side of the court. It was intriguing to see Kyrgios’ reluctance to utilise too much time between points when serving. Beginning to rush slightly, he disguised his gameplan to perfection – but frustration started to creep in, all culminating in a tireless fourth game (seven minutes, 47 seconds in total).
3-1 became 3-2 as Raonic was able to use his own big serve effectively whilst wrongfooting Kyrgios with composure. However, the latter’s agility and power was certainly too much to handle as the crowd were in awe: Kyrgios’ forehand winners continued to flow from his racket consistently, deep into Raonic’s half, with virtually no reply each time. Despite a mini-battle when serving at 5-4 up, the ‘bad boy’ was able to shrug off any doubt about the score – winning the first set, deservedly too.
Following tense exchanges, a purposeful second set
Raonic knew he had to step up, or face dropping out of the competition at the quarter-final stage. From the offset, he played like a man with something to prove: subtle shots mixed with varying forehand returns – another dimension of his game, that Kyrgios himself initially had trouble dealing with.
Both were level at 3-3, before Raonic stormed infront once more. You could sense the supporters were anxiously anticipating some sort of meltdown from Nick, considering his unfavourable history, but his recovery was admirable if not spectacular on two separate occasions to avoid a straight-forward passage for Raonic to claim a set of his own.
The way Kyrgios does it. Effortlessly, almost. Wrapping his racket (and wrist) around the ball without breaking sweat, always swerving in the direction he wants – Raonic knew he was in for a challenge just to level the scoring, let alone the match itself. Raonic isn’t one to surrender easily though, and after some back-and-forth rallies, found himself 6-5 up in the second set with a potentially pivotal game in the offing.
Kyrgios’ double fault attracted yet more hushed silence, with fans expecting an outburst. Instead, the Australian used his big serve to good effect and frustrated his opponent on a number of occasions to hold comfortably. It was then of course, time for a tie-break, with the scores level at 6-6.
Kyrgios’ powerful serve sent Raonic sprawling helplessly to try and return his shot – Nick’s 7th service ace of the match. Raonic was evidently trying everything to force some sort of opening, but Kyrgios was too unpredictable and utilised his power, especially on the forehand, to devastating effect.
5-2 on the scoreboard was suddenly 5-4, making the spectacle all the more intriguing to watch. Another unforced error from the 25-year-old Canadian followed, giving Kyrgios two match points. It was seemingly over within an instant, and Kyrgios storms into his first Masters 1000 semi-final, where he’ll play against Kei Nishikori tomorrow evening.