Nick Kyrgios launches furious rant as he loses to Rafael Nadal

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17 Nick Kyrgios of Australia plays a forehand against Rafael Nadal of Spain in their quarterfinal match on Day 11 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by ) - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17 Nick Kyrgios of Australia plays a forehand against Rafael Nadal of Spain in their quarterfinal match on Day 11 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by ) - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Nick Kyrgios collected a point penalty for verbal obscenity as he went down to a narrow three-set defeat at the hands of this season’s Mr Invincible: Rafael Nadal.

In a typically fiery match that brought the Indian Wells crowd to the edge of hysteria, Kyrgios smashed a racket when he failed to pull off a break of serve in the 11th game.

That earned him a first Code of Conduct warning. So when Kyrgios began swearing at 0-6 down in the first-set tie-break, umpire Carlos Bernardes handed him a point penalty, thus ending the set without further ado.

In truth, Kyrgios was lucky to get away without further censure. He could easily have been docked a game – the next step in tennis’s escalating series of penalties – when he started shouting at Bernardes in the middle of the third set, immediately after having double-faulted to give up the crucial break.

Mind you, it wouldn’t have made much difference either way. Nadal rushed through the next game without the slightest fuss, and then held to love in his final service game to complete his 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 victory in 2hr 45min.

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17: Rafael Nadal of Spain serves to Nick Kyrgios of Australia during the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) - Matthew Stockman /Getty Images North America
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17: Rafael Nadal of Spain serves to Nick Kyrgios of Australia during the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) - Matthew Stockman /Getty Images North America

Having thus progressed into the semi-finals, Nadal has now won all 19 matches he has played this season. Already a three-time champion here in Indian Wells, he was mentally impregnable when it mattered most.

Kyrgios tossed his racket again with full power at the conclusion of the match, nearly hitting a ball-boy, and was booed by the fans as he left the court. But Nadal, in a classy touch, applauded his vanquished opponent.

This is one of the most riveting rivalries in the game, having gained even more spice since Kyrgios told the No Challenges Remaining podcast in 2019 that Nadal was a “salty” loser.

Kyrgios famously won their first meeting at Wimbledon in 2014, when he was still only 19. But Nadal now leads the series by a 6-3 margin, having triumphed in their last three encounters.

Both players were desperate to win on Thursday, but they showed it in different ways. Nadal settled for silent focus. For most of the match, he was below his best – a result, perhaps, of the chronic pain caused by the defective scaphoid bone in his left foot. But when he needed to find something extra, late in the first and third sets, he was able to ramp up his intensity.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by RAY ACEVEDO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12854129ci) Nick Kyrgios of Australia smashes his racket to the court in the first set against Rafael Nadal of Spain during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 17 March 2022. Kyrgios received a code violation for this act from the Chair Umpire. BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Indian Wells, USA - 17 Mar 2022 - RAY ACEVEDO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by RAY ACEVEDO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12854129ci) Nick Kyrgios of Australia smashes his racket to the court in the first set against Rafael Nadal of Spain during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 17 March 2022. Kyrgios received a code violation for this act from the Chair Umpire. BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Indian Wells, USA - 17 Mar 2022 - RAY ACEVEDO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Kyrgios, by contrast, competed well for most of the match, only to fade at the most critical moments. He only dropped his serve twice all afternoon, but both times he went bananas, ranting not only at Bernardes but also at his own courtside entourage.

As ever, in a match involving Kyrgios, there was plenty of incident. Even before the end of the third game, Kyrgios had already chuntered that Nadal was “lucky” after an unusual point in which two shanked shots both found the court. He also complained that Nadal hadn’t apologised for his good fortune by raising his hand in the traditional manner.

With Nadal returning from an extremely deep position, Kyrgios attempted two underarm serves. The first was also a “tweener” serve through the legs. Nadal saw it coming and banged it away for a return winner. The second, though, was so well placed that Nadal didn’t even bother running for it.

There was also an amusing exchange with a fan who was making more noise than Kyrgios would have liked. “Are you good at tennis?" Kyrgios asked the spectator. When the fan replied in the negative, Kyrgios continued “Exactly, so why are you speaking?" He then pointed at the film star Ben Stiller, who was sitting in the front row of the stands. "Do I tell him how to act? No.”

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