Nick Kyrgios has lost his Italian Open third-round clash with seven-time champion Rafael Nadal 6-7 6-2 6-4 in an absorbing three-hour contest in Rome.
The 21-year-old, who famously beat Nadal at Wimbledon in their only previous meeting in 2014, took the first set after winning the tiebreak 7-3 having saved set point at 4-5 down.
The clay court legend to hit back in the second set, breaking the Australian to love in the opening game and did so again en route to a 5-1 lead before levelling the match on serve.
Kyrgios received treatment for a hip injury from the courtside trainer but said it was no excuse for his defeat as Nadal saw out the match to set up a clash with either Novak Djokovic or Brazil’s Thomaz Belluci.
“My hip was not great before the match either, but I knew my game plan and I knew I was going to try and play aggressive,” said Kyrgios.
“It’s bothering me but it didn’t really bother me too much at all.”
“I mean, he just .. couple points here and there, it was tight and he just played well in the big points. That’s pretty much it.
Despite the defeat, Kyrgios said he was pleased with the way he performed against the man who has won this title seven times.
“Obviously he’s the greatest of all time on this surface,” he said.
“For me, just when I was a bit younger .. we were always talking about playing Rafa on clay, and I always thought I’d get absolutely destroyed against him.
“Then to play him and compete out there, deep in the third, [a] three-hour match, it feels pretty good.”
Roger Federer said he was not concerned after losing to 15th-ranked Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.
After withdrawing from last week’s Madrid Open with lower back pain, Federer was just glad he was able to play two matches on the clay in Rome.
“It doesn’t matter how I played,” he said.
“(What is) important is that I didn’t have any setbacks and I was able to step on the tennis court and that I tried what I could with what I had.
“I knew I wasn’t good enough for any result here, so that’s why I hope you don’t read into it so much and I don’t
“This is like, ‘Who cares about the results here?’ It matters what comes now in the next couple of months.”
With only 10 days before the French Open, however, Federer needs to figure out how to manage the pain.
“Time starts ticking more towards Paris,” said Federer.
In the quarter-finals, Thiem will face sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who beat Richard Gasquet 6-1 6-4.
Juan Monaco of Argentina upset French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 6-4 and lucky loser Lucas Pouille beat ninth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-1.