Nick Kyrgios, a 19-year-old wild card from Australia, turned in the performance of the tournament to upset Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon.
LONDON -- Three quick thoughts after 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios upset two-time champion Rafael Nadal 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Tuesday:
1. Kyrgios, an Australian ranked No. 144, was asked before the match whether he thought he could beat Nadal. He had a one-word answer: "Yep." It may have sounded like brash talk from a teenager, but Kyrgios backed it up with the performance of the tournament, taking out the world No. 1 in his Centre Court debut at the All England Club.
You can’t really call this Kyrgios’ coming-out performance. A well-regarded and well-liked prospect for several years, he captivated the Australian Open crowd before losing to Benoit Paire, and last week he saved nine match points and beat No. 13 Richard Gasquet 10-8 in the fifth set in the second round. On Tuesday, he simply stole the show with an effort that was equal parts power and poise. If you wondered about his level of confidence, consider that he attempted this mind-blowing shot.
He hit through and past Nadal, unleashing a violent serve and forehand combination. Never mind being awed by the occasion, he relished the opportunity to be on Centre Court and gave one of the most memorable debuts since John McEnroe.
"That's the biggest win of my career obviously, and that's something I'm never going to forget" Kyrgios said. "I'm going to draw so much confidence out of that no matter where I play now. To have that under my belt, it's massive. I definitely had nothing to lose out there."
2. Though he didn’t play that badly, Nadal’s performance at Wimbledon continues to mystify. From 2006-11, he reached the final every year (except '09 when he didn't play) and won twice. But since then, he's lost in the second round ('12) and the first round ('13), and this year he lost to a teenager who needed a wild card just to get into the main draw. Still, this was a very unexpected defeat.
3. A few days ago, Kyrgios was asked about his goals, and instead of giving a soft answer about how he wanted to improve or maximize potential, he said flatly that he wanted to be No. 1. First, you have to applaud unapologetic ambition. Second, it’s hardly delusional. It wasn’t simply his powerful game that he put on display on Tuesday; it was his affinity for the big stage.
"My first Wimbledon making the fourth round, playing Rafa on Centre Court, I definitely had a sense of even if I get broken here -- I was actually thinking about it in the fourth set -- If I get broken here, it's not the end of the world," Kyrgios said. "There's another set to play."
In his next match -- his first Grand Slam quarterfinal -- he gets Milos Raonic. If he can replicate the serving and nerving he showed against the 14-time major champion, he has a real chance.
Regardless, a new tennis star has arrived. Good on him, mate.