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Ricky’s tennis preview and picks for Thursday in Indian Wells: Nadal vs. Kyrgios and Norrie vs. Alcaraz

Rafael Nadal is 5-3 lifetime vs. Nick Kyrgios. EPA-EFE/JOHN G MABANGLO

By Ricky Dimon

A blockbuster matchup in the Indian Wells quarterfinals pits familiar foes Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios against each other on Thursday. Cameron Norrie and Carlos Alcaraz are also aiming for a place in the final four.

Here are my previews and picks for Thursday’s quarterfinal matchups.

(4) Rafael Nadal vs. (WC) Nick Kyrgios

Nadal and Kyrgios will be squaring off for the ninth time in their careers when they clash in the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. The head-to-head series series stands at 5-3 in favor of Nadal following victories by almost identical scorelines at Wimbledon in 2019 and at the 2020 Australian Open. The Spaniard prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) at the All-England Club and 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) at Melbourne Park. They have split six previous encounters away from clay at three wins apiece and Kyrgios is 2-0 against Nadal on North American hard courts.

You know another strong effort from Kyrgios is forthcoming in this one. The 26-year-old is always motivated in this matchup, is playing great in Indian Wells (has not dropped a set while defeating Sebastian Baez, Federico Delbonis, and Casper Ruud), and he is well-rested after getting a fourth-round walkover from Jannik Sinner. The question is if Nadal can bring enough to the table to withstand another Kyrgios charge. At 100 percent, the 35-year-old is the best player on tour right now. He is 18-0 this season with three titles–including the Australian Open. Since requiring a major comeback against Sebastian Korda last weekend, Nadal has raised his level to beat Dan Evans and Reilly Opelka in straight sets. However, the world No. 4’s lingering foot issue is a concern. If he is fine physically, Nadal’s defense and ability to play his way into extended rallies with Kyrgios should keep him undefeated in 2022.

Pick: Nadal in 2

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in action against Gael Monfils of France during their match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 16 March 2022. EPA-EFE/JOHN G MABANGLO

(19) Carlos Alcaraz vs. (12) Cameron Norrie

Whenever the time comes for Nadal to step away from the game, Alcaraz is the heir apparent. The 18-year-old Spaniard has been tipped as such for many years already, and now he is starting to live up to the hype. Obviously calling for him to be “the next Nadal” is outrageous, but becoming a multiple Grand Slam champion seems well within reach. Don’t be surprised if he is a Masters 1000 champion by the end of this fortnight. Alcaraz is on fire right now, with an 11-1 record in 2022 that is highlighted by a title in Rio de Janeiro. So far in Indian Wells the world No. 19 has disposed of Mackenzie McDonald, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Gael Monfils in easy straight sets. He dropped a grand total of two games to Bautista Agut and issued a breadstick to Monfils in their second set on Wednesday night.

Up next for Alcaraz on Thursday is Norrie, the defending champion. They previously faced each other at the 2021 U.S. Open and to say it did not go well for the left-handed Brit would be an understatement. He lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Norrie is obviously confident at this particular tournament following his success last fall, but Alcaraz has only gotten better and better since their first meeting last summer so there is no reason to think Norrie can withstand the teenager’s firepower.

Pick: Alcaraz in 2

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.