Rafael Nadal said he was braced for the “huge” serve of John Isner after Spain’s world number one bulldozed his way into the China Open quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion Nadal saw off the young Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3 in Beijing to set up a last-eight clash with Isner, who had defeated the Spaniard with some impressive play at the Laver cup two weeks ago.
The in-form American, the sixth seed, is renowned for his booming service game and Nadal expects to come under a barrage on Friday.
Isner was impressive in blasting his way past Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-0, 6-3 and Nadal said: “Tomorrow will be a tough one against Isner, he’s playing unbelievably well.
“I saw him today, he played so aggressive, having a lot of success, hitting a lot of winners, returning very well.
“Everybody knows that he serves huge and it is so difficult to break him.
“But if you add that he is playing very well now from the baseline, he is one of the toughest opponents you can meet.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 5, 2017
Nadal, 31, the top seed and coming off the back of a third US Open title, saved two match points against Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his opener in Beijing.
But he was always in control against Khachanov, 21, breaking him in the fourth game of the first set on the way to a routine victory.
“Of course I played better today. But is true that Pouille played so well the other day. There is always a reason. But obviously first match after a while is tough. First one against Pouille is a difficult one,” said Nadal, who recorded a tour-leading 31st win on hard court in 2017.
“After that match, be through after all the things that happened the other day, was a positive thing for me of course. And that’s gives me confidence. Today I think I played a good match.”
In the women’s draw, former world number one and fourth seed Karolina Pliskova became the latest high-profile casualty on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts, going out in the third round to unseeded Sorana Cirstea.
Cirstea, ranked 44 in the world, stunned the Czech Pliskova 6-1, 7-5 to reach the last eight.
She will play Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, the Roland Garros champion, after China’s top player Peng Shuai retired with a knee injury at 3-0 down in the first set.
The 31-year-old Peng said she had been having injections to ease the pain and her right knee was heavily strapped, but she could not play on.
“The doctor suggested I should take a period of rest and get it treated, but I can only rest after the season, that’s the plan,” said Peng, ranked 25 in the world.
World number one Garbine Muguruza and reigning champion Agnieszka Radwanska are both out, leaving world number two Halep as the favourite in the Chinese capital.
Also into the quarters are Caroline Garcia, who defeated French compatriot Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-1, and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Garcia is in red-hot form after winning the Wuhan Open title on Saturday.
— China Open (@ChinaOpen) October 5, 2017
There were countless unforgettable moments from the inaugural Laver Cup that took place in Prague from September 22-24 at the O2 Arena.
The moment Nadal leapt into Federer’s arms to celebrate the Swiss securing Team Europe’s win over Team World has been replayed millions of times around the world. It’s an iconic shot that will forever commemorate the Laver Cup’s first edition. Nick Kyrgios‘ getting emotional and getting consoled by his team-mates also melted our hearts.
One of the most appealing aspects of Laver Cup was the behind-the-scenes footage they provided. Staged or not, this conversation between Nadal, Federer, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg and vice-captain Thomas Enqvist was gold!
Alexander Zverev was given the tough task of introducing Federer to the stage during the Laver Cup gala. He came up with the perfect anecdote of meeting the Swiss legend when he was just five years old. Federer’s introduction to Nadal was not too shabby either. Must-watch!
The Team World bench were having the time of their life during the competition, adopting celebrations from US college basketball as they supported their team-mates during matches. There was a significantly different vibe on the sidelines for both teams and we must say we thoroughly enjoyed Team World’s shenanigans. The Tennis Channel put this perfect video together to showcase just how wild things got.
This coaching moment between Federer and Zverev gave us a sneak peek of what Coach Roger Federer might actually look like. Suddenly we are all fans of on-court coaching. Kudos to the WTA for introducing it to their tour.
Nick Kyrgios said he wanted to make up for his notorious meltdown last year in Shanghai as he beat Mischa Zverev in the second round of the China Open on Wednesday.
A year ago the supremely talented but combustible Kyrgios was suspended for his petulant behaviour at the Shanghai Masters, where he swore and argued with the crowd and appeared to give away points in caving in to the German.
The enigmatic Australian, seeded eighth on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts this year, smashed his racquet on the floor in anger, bending the head in half, when he conceded the opening set on Wednesday.
That earned the world number 19 a warning from the umpire and raised the spectre of one year ago.
But the 22-year-old returned for the second set with renewed determination and errors began creeping into Zverev’s game.
Zverev, ranked 27 in the world and the older brother of rising star Alexander (Sascha), surrendered his first service game of the second set and Kyrgios was never in trouble after that, surging into the next round 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
During one changeover the Australian appeared so relaxed that he sat back on his chair, arms behind his head, and sang along with a pop hit being played over the stadium loudspeakers.
“Nothing really, just chilling out,” Kyrgios, whose suspect temperament sometimes outdoes his talent, said afterwards when asked about his demeanour during the match.
Nick Kyrgios at changeover 😂🎤 pic.twitter.com/mMfBnGpQuq
— Rena (@_irenka23_) October 4, 2017
Kyrgios said facing Zverev a year after Shanghai, and again in China, was the perfect opportunity to show how far he has come.
“Obviously didn’t have a great one last year, obviously got suspended after that,” he said.
“I just wanted to go out there today and kind of redeem myself a little bit from last year,” he said, adding: “I just wanted to prove to myself how much I have improved.”
Kyrgios, one of the most colourful characters in tennis, added: “I knew it was going to be tough and I got broken early in the first.
“Then I kind of knew I had to loosen up and find my rhythm a little bit.”
The Australian star was unsure how well he’d be up for this Asian swing, having been on the road for many weeks in a row, and following a gruelling stretch that included tournaments in Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati, New York, Davis Cup in Belgium and Laver Cup in Prague.
Speaking to reporters in Prague less than two weeks ago, Kyrgios discussed his outlook ahead of the Asian tournaments.
“It’s a tough one. I obviously haven’t had the greatest memories in Asia, last year I had a terrible end to the season but I don’t know. I’ve been on the road now for a while, I haven’t been home in a long time, it’s draining,” said the Canberra-native.
“But I knew that Davis Cup and Laver Cup, they were always in the back of my mind — obviously with Davis Cup at the top, and I knew that this (Laver Cup) was going to be an exciting event, I was looking forward to it a lot. I don’t know if I can tell you I’m looking forward to Beijing and Shanghai honestly.
“Obviously I’m going to go and play but it’s question marks everywhere there.”
Kyrgios is currently No. 20 in the Race to London rankings, but his position is virtually 16 considering Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori are all out for the rest of the season and are ahead of him in the standings.
Only the top-eight get to feature in the season finale in London and Kyrgios mathematically still has a chance to make it.
The Aussie next faces qualifier Steve Darcis in the Beijing quarter-finals in a rematch of their recent Davis Cup rubber, which Kyrgios won in five sets in Brussels.
If Kyrgios wins Beijing, he could virtually rocket up to be among the top 10 contenders for the ATP World Tour Finals.