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How could it be otherwise, the spirit of Kobe Bryant was also present at the Australian Open, after a few hours after his death in the helicopter accident that shocked the world of sports. «Basketball is almost my life. I see it every day. I've been following him since I can remember, ”said Nick Kyrgios , who appeared in the warm-up before his game against Nadal , visibly excited, with number 8 on the shirt of the legendary Los Angeles Lakers escort. "He was one of the greatest athletes in history," said the Spaniard.
Even as the game progressed, there was still a feeling of melancholy among the public at the Rod Laver Arena. Weighed, of course, the magnificent round of 16 clash of the first Grand Slam of the year between the local idol and a man who raises passions wherever he goes, but with a halo of latent disbelief after the tragedy in northern Los Angeles. When tennis broke loose, Nadal again demonstrated his strength in this class of games, which mark the trajectory of the great tennis players. Kyrgios came with his unquestionable facade of a good player and with the credit accumulated in some of the clashes with the Spanish, which he had been able to overcome in three of his previous seven crosses. The fringes of the bad relationship between the two were added, in large part due to the little edifying attitudes of the Australian. Kyrgios played well, better than he usually does in challenges of these characteristics, but it was only enough to take a set and force two playoffs, something that seems scarce for a man whose excellences are agreed by his partners and specialists.
«I couldn't beat him. I tried to serve and volley or left, but I had to win the point three times to take it, ”he admitted. Nadal won by 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6) and 7-6 (4), in three hours and 38 minutes, whose score, regardless of the partial tie break was identical to that played in the past year in the second round of Wimbledon.
In the ascending line already pointed in sixteenths before Carreño , Nadal overcame the 25 direct serves and the outbursts of genius of an adversary whose inconsistency was again evident. "The biggest problem for me is having the same attitude over and over again," he said. It was a Nadal in the tone that is expected of him to attack the final stages of a tournament that he aspires to win for the second time, after the title of 2009, and thus equal the 20 greats of Roger Federer . «I have been taking steps in the right direction throughout the tournament. It is true that against Pablo Carreño I gave a little more, and it was very important at that time. Today [yesterday] has been a very positive game ». His opponent this Wednesday, on schedule yet to be determined, will be Dominic Thiem , who beat Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-4 and 6-4.
Double finalist of Roland Garros, the Austrian, fifth favorite, has improved his performance in fast surface since it was put in the hands of Nicolás Massú , at the beginning of last year. Shortly after he won his first Masters 1000 at Indian Wells. Already in the quarterfinals of the 2018 US Open he took Nadal to the tiebreaker of the fifth set after giving him a 6-0 entry. Favorite, as it would also be in a hypothetical semifinal against Zverev or Wawrinka, Nadal will be guaranteed to continue as world number 1 at the conclusion of the tournament if he surpasses the Austrian, with whom he has a favorable balance of 9-4 in the face-to-face.
Thiem has just ended the work with his compatriot Thomas Muster , former world number 1 and champion of Roland Garros in 1995, considering that it did not work as a member of the team led by Massú.
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