In one corner of the globe, a sleeping nation; the other, a teen in a dream. But don’t wake him up just yet.
Australia’s tennis future shone brighter than a raindrop under LED overnight when Nick Kyrgios upset the status quo for a second time to defeat Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in a three-hour epic match on centre court at the All England Club.
Just days after defending an incredible nine match points on his way to an extraordinary five-set victory over Richard Gasquet, Kyrgios again showed craft and cunning beyond his years in a match that sent the tennis world into meltdown.
It was pegged as David v Goliath, and just as the biblical story foreshadowed, David’s slingshot found a rare chink in what is otherwise impenetrable armour. Kyrgios opened and closed with aces as he unleashed an incredible 37 unplayable serves against the French Open champion, while 70 clean winners and a crucial service break in the fourth set lay the foundation for the biggest upset on grass this year.
Kyrgios’ high impact and nonchalant style was epitomised in the second set when, leading by a set and 3-3, he pulled out a fearless, impudent drop-shot through his legs to win the point. The attempt gained global media attention, with many analysts labelling it the “shot of the year”.
Nadal’s Wimbledon record was hardly formidable, with first and second round exits in the last two tournaments; however this was the first time he had lost to a teenager since 2007, and the first time a teenager had defeated the number one at a grand slam since Nadal himself overcame a younger, more agile Roger Federer at Rolland Garros in 2005.
“I didn’t think I played that badly,” Nadal said at his press conference after the loss.
“On a surface like this, when he serves and hits every ball strongly, you are in trouble.”
Meanwhile, Kyrgios’ unlikely run into the last eight has gained the attention of former winner John McEnroe, who forecast that the Canberra teen was playing like someone who “absolutely believed that he would win”, and drew likenesses to the great Boris Becker, the last person to take out a grand slam as a teenager.
As for Nick, he can’t believe the success he has had so far.
“I think I was in a bit of a zone… it hasn’t sunk in,” he said after the victory.
“I played some extraordinary tennis…so I was really happy.”
Kyrgios has been drawn to play Milos Raonic in his quarter final clash which will be contested tonight due to a revised Wimbledon schedule. Inclement weather drastically affected the opening week of the major, and has resulted in a congested fixture list over the coming days. – Patrick Boddan
Top photo from David Pinkney’s Flickr photostream.