The Quarter of Death at Indian Wells is up and running. The seeds have lived up to the expectations and the blockbuster matches are all lined up one after the other. Ever since the draw release, a lot has been said about the Nick Kyrgios v Alexander Zverev match-up and the two hottest rising stars on the ATP circuit right now, are going to face each other for the first time on tour.
There’s been enough hype regarding these two players – the leaders of ATP’s NextGen campaign, and understandably so! Among the players aged 21-and-under, Kyrgios and Zverev have made themselves distinguishable from a very young age, unlike their peers. While Kyrgios has 3 ATP titles at 21 years of age, Zverev boasts of 2 at 19. With a potential 4th round clash against one of Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro on the cards, the two off-court friends will lock horns in an attempt to have the final laugh.
Alexander, popularly known as Sascha, is excited about his first ever head to head against Kyrgios.
“I will be very excited, because I think we are the two young guys talked about the most, with Dominic Thiem. It will be a very exciting match, because he’s played this year and I’ve played well this year too. We’ll see.”
The Nadal Heartbreak
The 2016 BNP Paribas Open was a dream come true for him, when he came within a volley of defeating the legendary Rafael Nadal to become the youngest in 27 years to reach the quarterfinals at Indian Wells (Andre Agassi and Michael Chang were the last to do so, back in 1989); and a heartbreak – he missed the easiest volley on match point, lost his composure and went on to lose the one match that could’ve shot him right into the limelight!
Zverev will be determined to come out victorious from the scary draw, banking on his heavy groundstrokes, serve and a composed nature, the last of which is rarely seen in a teenager. But his compatriot Kyrgios, wouldn’t make life too easy for him when they meet.
“I’m looking forward to it. We have been obviously close mates for a long time. I played juniors with him. I played him once in juniors and I thought he had a big game then. He’s obviously put it together now. He’s had some great results and beaten some big names. I know it’s going to be tough, especially on this surface. If he plays his aggressive game, it’s not going to be easy to get looks on his serve, and it’s the same for me. If I go out there and play my style of tennis and I lose, I won’t be surprised. But if I win, I won’t be surprised as well.”
As simply put, as is humanly possible, but that’s what Nick is all about. After breaking into the tennis scene with a victory over both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in their first meetings, Nick did the same against Novak Djokovic too, being the only player other than fellow Aussie Lleyton Hewitt to have achieved such a feat. And he is touted as the next big thing alongside Zverev, with a prodigious game, only few can match. But, he couldn’t be more carefree, aptly aided by the I-don’t-care attitude that’s fast becoming an ambassador of his game and on-court behavior.
Will the phoenix rise from the quarter of death?
From the toughest and most talked about quarter of a draw in a long time, Zverev believes, “the champion will come out of this section.” And he’s got every reason to believe so. Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Kyrgios, del Potro and Zverev himself, with no Murray left in the draw, the one that wins this quarter, will likely be having just enough confidence to get through the next two matches.
There’s surely a lot more matches to be contested between these two potential future champions, but the first one is always special. There will be pressure to outshine the other and years later, when they look back, this will be where it all started. This is how great rivalries begin. And the onus is absolutely on them to make the most out of this, to try to overshadow one another and end up winning the ‘Quarter of Death’, and hold the baton high.
The future is now.