In Indian Wells, defending champion Norrie hopes to calm down red-hot Alcaraz.
After two years of anticipation, the stars have finally aligned in the California desert for the latest
installment of the Rafael Nadal vs. Nick Kyrgios rivalry.
The pair’s eighth tour-level clash will be the highlight of Thursday’s quarter-final action at the BNP Paribas Open. Nadal leads the ATP Head2Head series 5-3, but the Australian has found some vintage form in California and has yet to drop a set this week.
Three-time winner Rafael Nadal may have dropped a frame when pushed to the limit by Sebastian Korda in the second round at Indian Wells, but the famous Spaniard is still undefeated in 2022 in the one category that matters — winning matches. With each victory extending his season-best start, a win versus Kyrgios would bring him to 19-0.
“[I’m] pleased to win, it doesn’t matter how many sets,” Nadal said after defeating Reilly Opelka in the fourth round on Wednesday. “Of course, I’m delighted to be in the quarter-finals. That was my most impressive match of the tournament. “I did what I had to do against Reilly, who is a really difficult player.”
Due to previous meetings with Kyrgios, the 21-time Grand Slam winner is mindful of the threat the wild card offers to his undefeated streak. On his journey to the final eight, the Australian has defeated Sebastian Baez, Federico Delbonis, and World No. 8 Casper Ruud, and he has a reputation of upping his game even more when playing Nadal.
“Nick is playing fantastic,” Nadal added. “He’s one of the Tour’s hardest opponents.” When he is motivated, everyone knows how good he is. It will be a nice test and a good challenge for me.”
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Jannik Sinner, Kyrgios’ fourth round opponent, withdrew from their match on Wednesday owing to sickness, but the Australian will take the momentum of his first three straight-set victory into the quarter-final encounter. The wild card has spoken frankly about the optimistic mentality that is fueling his efforts in Indian Wells as he seeks his first ATP Masters 1000 championship and his first victory at any level since 2019.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Kyrgios stated after defeating Ruud in the third round. “I believe everyone does. It’s a matter of whether I put my mind to it. I’m feeling revitalised. I simply feel like I’m here, pleased, and ready to give it my all in every match.”
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The winner will face either reigning champion Cameron Norrie or Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals. The second quarter-final in the top half of the draw is an exciting matchup between two of the Tour’s best players for the first time since the Spaniard won the US Open in straight sets in 2021.
After starting 2022 with four straight defeats, Norrie was relieved to return to the site of his most historic triumph for Wednesday’s fourth-round victory over dangerous American Jenson Brooksby. The memories of his last encounter on Stadium 1, in which he defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili to win his first Masters 1000 championship in 2021 final, looked to bolster the Brit, but he is ready for another tough battle against Spanish prodigy Alcaraz.
“Obviously, I enjoy playing on this court,” Norrie stated after defeating Brooksby. “I’m feeling okay physically, and I enjoy the circumstances here, but last time I was brutally pounded by him [Alcaraz].
” He’s one of the greatest young players, incredibly good on both sides, and he won [an ATP 500 tournament] earlier this year. So he’s confident, and it’ll be a difficult one, but [I’m] looking forwards to potentially exacting some vengeance on him.”
A task made all the more difficult by the fact that Alcaraz’s level appears to have climbed since that August encounter in New York. That progress, according to the Rio Open presented by Claro champion, is due to hard
off-court conditioning work, which allows him to stay at the peak of his game for extended periods of time.
“My team and I understand how crucial it is to be physically strong,” the 18-year-old stated earlier this week. “It was one thing we knew I needed to work on a lot. It was an excellent emphasis during the preseason. I am overjoyed. It boosts my self-esteem. I have a better chance of maintaining my level over a three- or four-hour contest against the greatest players.”
This consistency will be put to the test against Norrie’s rock-solid game. “I’ll be thrilled if I maintain the level [from tonight],” Alcaraz said after defeating Gael Monfils in straight sets in the fourth round. “However, I constantly repeat that you can develop and perform better every day.
Second-seeding As the doubles quarter-finals conclude on Thursday, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will play their first seeded opponents of the tournament, No. 7 duo Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski.
Ram and Salisbury are seeking to add to their first Masters 1000 championship, which they won last year in Toronto. The American-British duo followed that up with a US Open victory in September, although they have yet to reach the quarterfinals in two prior trips in Indian Wells. Ram has had previous success in the California desert, having won the championship with Raven Klaasen in 2017.
An unseeded couple will face off in the semi-finals. In Thursday’s other quarter-final, Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin face Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev, the latter team riding high after knocking off third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in the second round.
THURSDAY, MARCH 17, 2022 – ORDER OF PLAY
STADIUM 1 begins at 11:00 a.m.
ATP –  M. Sakkari (GRE) vs. WTA – E. Rybakina (KAZ) –   P. Badosa (ESP) vs. Kudermetova, V.
Before 3:00 p.m.
ATP – R. Nadal (ESP) vs. N. Kyrgios (WC) (AUS)
Before 6:00 p.m.
ATP –  C. Alcaraz (ESP) vs.  C. Alcaraz (ESP) ATP C. Norrie (GBR)  Formalized paraphrase  W. Koolhof (NED) / N. Skupski (GBR) vs. J. Salisbury / R. Ram (USA) (GBR)
STADIUM 2 begins at 3:00 p.m.
S. Gonzalez (MEX) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) against A. Karatsev / A. Rublev ATP – [PR] S. Gonzalez (MEX) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs A. Karatsev / A. Rublev
No later than 5:00 p.m.
WTA –  G. Dabrowski (CAN) vs.  A. Muhammad (USA) vs. E. Shibahara (JPN)
Before 7:00 p.m.
WTA: Y. Xu (CHN) vs. Z. Yang (CHN) vs. A. Cornet (FRA) vs. L. Fernandez (CAN)