The pair have played once since then at the 2020 Australian Open, with Nadal winning in an almost-identical 6-3 3-6 7-6(6) 7-6(4) scoreline. It was one of their rare encounters with little on-court drama, and the former world No 1 was full of praise for his opponent afterwards, saying: “It’s clear, of course, that when he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don’t like. When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour, and I want my tour bigger, not smaller. So the players who make the tour bigger are important for the tour. When he’s ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, is one of these guys.”
And the Spaniard seems to have gotten his wish as Kyrgios has a new lease of life, opening up on his new mindset ahead of Indian Wells last week. “One day I looked in the mirror and said that this isn’t the type of person that I’m trying to be. And now I’m a completely different person. I’m comfortable in my own skin, I’m not trying to please anyone. I’m not trying to be anyone else,” he said of some of his past on-court antics.
Nadal is well-aware of Kyrgios’ strong form so far this season, which saw him win the Australian Open men’s doubles title with Thanasi Kokkinakis while the Spaniard was off winning the singles. “He’s playing great. He’s one of the toughest opponents on tour,” the fourth seed said ahead of their clash. “Everybody knows how good he is when he’s motivated. Probably tomorrow, he will be. It will be a good test for me, a good challenge. But I’m just excited to be in the quarterfinals. I’m going to try to be ready for it.”