In the penultimate match on Centre Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, Australian Nick Kyrgios takes on David Ferrer for a place in the final. Kyrgios has shown the very best of his tennis so far this week and his electric shot making always wins him fans. Ferrer may not have the style of Kyrgios, but he’s not lacking in substance and remains one of the hardest working players on tour. But will baseline grind or all court flare triumph?
Kyrgios and Ferrer have met just once in their careers. That match was won by Ferrer in straight sets at the US Open. But it was contested in 2013 when Kyrgios was just 18 and Ferrer was in his prime. What indication it provides about the outcome of this match is, as a result, quite limited. In terms of experience, Ferrer has the advantage. He won a Masters in Paris in 2012 and has been runner-up on six other occasions, including in Cincinnati in 2014. This will be his 18th semi-final at a Masters event. There are few players outside the ‘Big Four’ with more experience. For Kyrgios, it is just his third semi-final at Masters level. That being said, he has taken well to the biggest stages in tennis so far in his career. He is twice a Slam quarter-finalist and has defeated Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Path to the semi-finals
Kyrgios began in the first round against ninth seed David Goffin, who he dismissed 6-2 6-3. The Belgian is returning from injury and is not yet back to his best, and that showed against Kyrgios. The Australian next came up against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov who, like Kyrgios, is a flashy shot maker. Kyrgios had the upper hand early on and took the first set 6-3 but the second was a tighter affair. Kyrgios was made to work hard for his victory, but he eventually pulled out the win in a tie break, taking it 8-6. In the third round, Kyrgios’ opponent was Ivo Karlovic but midway through the opening set, a deluge of rain saw the match called for the day. It resumed with Karlovic up 4-3 and he fared the better on the restart. He broke Kyrgios in the final game of the set to seal it.
But Kyrgios didn’t waver again on serve in the second set, forcing a tie break. There he played a number of stunning forehands that brought him the set. One break of the Karlovic serve in the decider was sufficient to bring him the win. Due to the rain delay, he had to return later that day to play Nadal, who was also pulling double duty, having defeated Ramos Vinolas earlier. Kyrgios, who so famously defeated Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014, dominated the first set. He took it 6-2, and after an early break in the second set looked to be heading to victory. Nadal saved three match points, and battled back into contention, breaking Kyrgios. But the Australian was in no mood to be denied. He broke Nadal again, to love, and this time made no mistake serving it out.
Ferrer opened his Cincinnati campaign against Steve Johnson, defeating the American in a three-set battle. He next had to fight hard to overcome fellow former top 10 player Janko Tipsarevic. The pair split the first two sets, but when Ferrer broke early in the decider, the Serbian’s resistance crumbled. Ferrer came through 6-4 6-7 6-1. Against Pablo Carreno Busta, Ferrer was more comfortable. He won in straight sets 6-4 6-4 against an opponent who looked someway off his best. Ferrer then met the third seed and world number eight Dominic Thiem. Thiem was excellent during the clay court season but has struggled elsewhere and Ferrer put him to the sword. The first set was comfortable for Ferrer and he broke early in the second. Thiem managed to get back to parity at 3-3 but didn’t win another game as Ferrer secured his spot in the last four.
How do they match up?
Kyrgios at his best is almost unplayable. He is able to draw on a combination of power and accuracy, particularly on his serve and forehand, that none have yet been able to counter. Djokovic, Federer and Nadal can all attest to that. Ferrer lacks any such weapons although his forehand is a very useful shot. He is tireless and his attitude never wavers. Not for nothing has playing Ferrer been compared to a match against a brick wall. The match will be a clash between first strike and counter-punching tennis.
One particularly interesting battle will be between Kyrgios’ serve and Ferrer’s return. Ferrer is amongst the best returners on tour though he rarely gets his due on account of playing alongside Djokovic and Andy Murray. But Kyrgios’ serve has proven difficult to read even for the best. The Australian will hope another good serving day can fire him into the semi-finals.
Ferrer has shown terrific hustle all week but Kyrgios has been blowing his opponents away. He has the game to hit anyone off the court when he is feeling it, and it looks like he is feeling it this week. Ferrer will bring a great attitude, but the story of much of the Spaniard’s career has been of that attitude and battle falling short against a more talented opponent. The Australian might well be that opponent in Cincinnati. Kyrgios in three.
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