With no histrionics and no dramas, just pure, no-nonsense enjoyment, Nick Kyrgios has roared into the semi-finals of the Halle grass-court tournament.
The Australian, so often sidetracked from his own brilliance by unnecessary distractions, was the model of businesslike concentration on Friday – with just the odd showman’s trick chucked in – as he blew away Top 20 baseliner Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4 6-2.
Kyrgios is on the verge of reaching his first grass-court final, but the wildcard Halle debutant must first overcome Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in Saturday’s semi.
The Australian No 2 has rarely looked as impressive as this all season as he swept aside the world No 19, giving an immaculate demonstration of serving which quite overwhelmed the Spaniard.
He pounded down 13 aces – typically, one of them was an underarm sneaker which earned a few jeers from the crowd – and served up no doubles while conceding only seven points all match off his own delivery.
He’s now just a match away from his first final since July 2019 when he beat Daniil Medvedev for the Washington hard-court trophy.
And the Russian world No 1 Medvedev could also be in his sights in Halle after putting paid to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-4 to set up the other semi-final with Germany’s Oscar Otte, who’d earlier beaten Karen Khachanov 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
Kyrgios earned break points in Carreno Busta’s opening service game but ended up chuntering to himself when failing to make them pay off. It was the only time he seemed to berate himself as he made his move dazzlingly in the fifth game, with searing winners off both wings earning him a break to love.
In the next game, he then produced an outrageous tweener which so surprised Carreno Busta, he ballooned his follow-up shot.
Largely though, there wasn’t a lot of showboating from Kyrgios, just a series of breathtaking winners – 39 in all. Perhaps even more striking was the sheer discipline in his game, as he made only four unforced errors.
Kyrgios roared with delight after forcing Carreno Busta to strike a volley long at the start of the second set as he earned the crucial break. He was untroubled after that, sealing the win in just 68 minutes.
“I’m definitely happy with the way I played. I’m feeling so comfortable on the grass,” said Kyrgios, who also reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart last week.
“The scoreline suggested that it was easy but he’s a dangerous player on all surfaces, and knows how to win matches, so I knew I had to take care of my serve and just be locked in from the ground.”
Kyrgios reckoned there was a very different feel to his victory in the previous round over Stefanos Tsitsipas, where the tension saw him collect a code violation for smashing his racquet in frustration.
“Well, I won pretty easy (today), I didn’t lose the first set,” he shrugged. “Against Tsitspias I wanted to get that first set. I know how much it means to get on top of those top players early on but from the get go today, I applied so much pressure on his serve and I thought I just returned really well.”
Later, Hurkacz set up their semi-final date, beating Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4) despite not earning any break points on the serve of the Canadian, who hit 21 aces.