Nadal: I like the Kyrgios of this tournament

After a fourth-round battle in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal praised Nick Kyrgios' Australian Open run.

Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal   -  Getty Images

Rafael Nadal encouraged Nick Kyrgios to continue with the same attitude he showed at the Australian Open after the Spaniard won their fourth-round clash on Monday.

World number one Nadal survived a test against Kyrgios, reaching the quarter-finals courtesy of a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) win on Rod Laver Arena.

The pair have endured a frosty relationship in the past but were largely respectful throughout, while Kyrgios' latest performance looked another step in the right direction for the volatile Australian.

Nadal said the 24-year-old was one of the best players on the ATP Tour and needed to continue with his improved attitude.

 

"What can I say again about Nick? When he's playing like today with a positive attitude, he gives lots of positive things to our sport," the Spaniard said in an on-court interview.

"I encourage him to keep working like this because he's one of the highest talents we have on our tour.

"I like the Nick Kyrgios of this tournament."

Bundle of nerves

The world number one hit 64 winners to just 27 unforced errors to impressively beat a motivated Kyrgios 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) in a tense fourth-round encounter.

While the Australian acknowledged Nadal had performed better than him on the biggest points, the Spaniard noted he had struggled at one key period on Monday.

Serving for the match at 5-4 up in the fourth set, he lost the game to allow Kyrgios back into the match and had to make a gutsy hold soon after just to force a second tie-break, which he ultimately won.

"I played a bad game, that's true," said Nadal. "I was playing great with my serve, winning all the games with very positive feelings. 

"In the 5-4 game, like everybody, I get a little bit more nerves, I was nervous at that moment.

"I played a bad game. I accept I was more nervous at that moment. I am humble enough to accept that sometimes I am nervous and I can have mistakes. That's what happened.

"I kept going, because in the next game I have 15-40 again. I was not able to achieve the break but I said after it got to 6-5, 'I need to forget the bad game with my serve, we are still very close to the victory'.

Read: Timeline of Nadal-Kyrgios feud ahead of Australian Open blockbuster

Kyrgios had warmed up for the clash in a Kobe Bryant jersey after the Los Angeles Lakers great's death.

Nadal also paid tribute to Bryant, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

 

"He always wanted more, he always wanted to increase his level," he said.

"He was a true inspiration for the world of sport and for a lot of kids, so it's one of these days that you want to forget.

"But of course, Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives."

On quarterfinal vs Thiem

Nadal is optimistic about the state of his game after reaching a 12th Australian Open quarter-final, with the Kyrgios match being the first time he has dropped a set at the tournament.

He added: "I am moving in the right direction. Every day I'm playing a little bit better.

"Very tough match next against Dominic. He's playing well. I saw him play against Gael Monfils and he was playing tennis at a very high level.

"We know each other well. He's a player that I like a lot, the way that he works, the way that he plays, and the way that he tries his best always.

"It is a match that going to be a tough one, but it will be interesting, no? I am excited to play this quarter-final. I know I have to be at my best to have chances."

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