Kyrgios solves Rafa riddle ahead of grudge match
With three wins from seven attempts against Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios is certain he has the game plan to derail the champion's quest for grand slam immortality ahead of a seismic Australian Open encounter.
Confident he won't be troubled by a recurrence of the buttock muscle strain he suffered against Karen Khachanov, Kyrgios believes he has the key to Nadal's game.
"Ever since juniors, I enjoyed playing lefties," Kyrgios said after recovering from Saturday night's rugged five-set win over Karen Khachanov.
"I feel like I kind of know what game plan I need to bring to be successful against them.
"I mean, Rafa is a different beast altogether.
"I mean, I kind of know his patterns.
"Everyone knows his patterns, (but) can't do anything about it.
"(Roger) Federer knows his patterns. Everyone knows his patterns. He executes them at the highest level."
Kyrgios boasts two hard-court victories over Nadal, including a spicy encounter in Acapulco last year which precipitated a poisonous war of words.
Irritated by Kyrgios' underarm serving, Nadal unloaded with: "He's a player who has enormous talent.
"Could be winning grand slams or fighting for the No.1 but he lacks respect for the crowd, the rival and towards himself."
Kyrgios fired back: "I'm different, Rafa is different. He can focus on what he needs to do. He doesn't know the journey I've been through, he doesn't know me."
A few weeks later, the Australian accused Nadal of being "super salty" and failing to give enough credit to opponents after losing.
Kyrgios also insulted Nadal's long-time coach and uncle Toni, labelling him an "idiot."
Kyrgios will bid for his second quarter-final appearance at Melbourne Park, while Nadal is hoping to land a second Australian Open title - and his first here since 2009.
If the Mallorcan succeeds, he will join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men in history to win all four majors at least twice.
Nadal is yet to drop a set, conceding just 22 games while advancing to the last 16 in six hours, 10 minutes.
By contrast, Kyrgios has spent nine hours, 28 minutes on court while contesting 12 sets and conceding 59 games.
The Australian complained of heavy legs - "My legs feel about 40 kilos each" - after stopping Khachanov but expects he will recover in time.
"Physically I think I'll be fine. A whole day off tomorrow ... do all the right things," Kyrgios said.
"I just served and felt my left bum cheek get sore. Feels better now, yeah.
"Obviously it's going to be another physical battle. Nothing comes easy with him."
Kyrgios predicts Nadal will again target his forehand.
"That's what he did at Wimbledon. He had some pretty good success there," Kyrgios said.
"I thought he played really well at Wimbledon.
"Yeah, I feel good. Like I feel like my game is ready to go."
TIME ON COURT
Kyrgios - 9hrs,28minutes, 12 sets.
Nadal - 6hrs,10minutes, nine sets.
HEAD TO HEAD
Nadal leads 4-3
2019 - Wimbledon - Nadal - 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-6
2019 - Acapulco - Kyrgios - 3-6 7-6 7-6
2017 - Beijing - Nadal - 6-2 6-1
2017 - ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati - Kyrgios - 6-2 7-5
2017 - ATP Masters 1000 Madrid - Nadal - 6-3 6-1
2016 - ATP Masters 1000 Rome - Nadal - 6-7 6-2 6-4
2014 - Wimbledon - Kyrgios - 7-6 5-7 7-6 6-3