Nick Kyrgios stuns Rafael Nadal with four-set Wimbledon victory

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Nick Kyrgios, an Australian teenager
with no fear and a golden arm, blew
the world No1, Rafael Nadal , off
Centre Court in four extraordinary
sets on Tuesday night to reach the
quarter-finals on his Wimbledon
Those bald facts alone are stunning.
But Kyrgios’s nerveless
performance, built on a serve to
inspire fear and admiration,
embroidered the occasion so
completely with his free spirit and
irresistible power that it was easy to
ignore that Nadal hit 44 winners
and only 18 unforced errors – stats
to win most matches – and still
could not subdue the youthful
charge of a wildcard ranked 144 in
the world.
Whatever happens, Kyrgios is
already the player of the fortnight,
maybe the player of the year. The
scoreline read 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6
(7-5), 6-3 and Kyrgios hit 70 winners
but mere numbers cannot tell the
whole story, as startling as they are.
“I think I was in a bit of a zone out
there,” he said immediately after his
victory in a flat monotone that
disguised his obvious joy. “I didn’t
really notice the crowd out there. I
played some extraordinary tennis.
“You’ve got to believe you can win
the match from the start. I’ve been
playing some incredible tennis on
the grass. I didn’t know what to do
when I won. I just turned to
everyone who’s been supporting me
my whole life. I love every single
one of them. They get me over the
At 4.10pm on a warm and
otherwise innocuous afternoon,
Kyrgios, who once did not much
care for tennis, announced his
arrival on Centre Court with a 127
mile-an-hour ace down the middle
that left one of the best returners in
tennis rooted to the spot. It
reminded this reporter of Jeff
Thomson’s first bouncer to Colin
Cowdrey at Perth in the 1974 Ashes.
And the aces just kept coming, like
the rigged reel of a fruit machine.
By the end, there were 37 of them
next to his name, delivered to all
parts of the box, regardless of
circumstance, with and without spin
or swerve, at various speeds up to
133mph. This, clearly, was a young
man in a hurry.
But his was not an ace-fest like the
215-shot barrage John Isner and
Nicholas Mahut inflicted on each
other here in 2010. The quality of
the exchanges was mostly superb,
with the 19-year-old going toe to toe
with Nadal in a string of
breathtaking rallies.
“We’re watching a young boy turn
into a man,” observed John
McEnroe. “We have a new star on
our hands in the tennis world.” As
ever, he was not wrong.
Kyrgios played with an unadorned
honesty and freedom that rattled
Nadal to the point of anxiety time
and again. Milos Raonic, who earlier
went through in four sets against
Kei Nishikori and will have a little
more time to rest, will have to be at
his very best in the quarters on
Wednesday, played back to back
because of the rain interruptions.
It was not just the power of
Kyrgios’s blows that bamboozled
Nadal in a match that lasted nearly
three hours, but their placement.
And, until he worked out how to
read Kyrgios’s quick-arm delivery
and the young Australian’s stamina
started to ebb, the Spaniard
struggled to stay calm under the
impertinent barrage.
Kyrgios was remarkably cool,
fiddling with his shoelaces between
points, wandering about the
baseline, loose-limbed and casting a
glance around the court (curiously
not rammed in the first hour –
especially the Royal Box; no change
And all the while Kyrgios just hit
and hit and hit, from hand and off
the ground: he did not lack for guile
but the vast majority of his
groundstrokes were flat, and
viciously struck off both wings, the
backhand double-fisted, the
forehand as free and fierce as a right
hook to the ribs. The only point he
had dropped on serve after 25
minutes was a double fault.
When the set got to the first serving
shootout, there could only be one
winner – and he was not from
Mallorca. At 5pm precisely Kyrgios
hit his 12th ace – 122mph wide to
the backhand – to take the set.
Nadal had now dropped the first set
for the fourth time on the spin here.
Except this time he would not be
coming back.
At this point, there were two points
of speculation: would Nick’s arm fall
off and would Rafa offer to pick it
up? More seriously, Nadal’s
excursion into the locker room for a
toilet break – the second time in the
tournament he has pulled this ploy
– was stretching gamesmanship to
the limit. When he returned, he
held to love. Coincidence? Had he
taken the air out of his young
opponent’s rousing momentum?
The murmurs in the crowd as
Kyrgios struggled to rediscover his
potency suggested the sentiment
was not with the Spaniard.
But this is where tennis gets tough,
in the nuanced mind games, the
time-wasting and grunts and glares
and barely suppressed animosity
that in some sports would incur
censure. It is a beautiful game, but
it can get ugly.
Kyrgios probably did not mind; he
looks like the sort of character who
enjoys a bit of conflict. What he also
brings is zest and innocence. It gave
him the freedom to ignore Nadal’s
ploys and to just keep hitting those
aces. He was, incredibly, serving at
15 aces an hour, which probably
broke some kind of speed record.
Now, the narrative belonged to
Kyrgios: could he do the seemingly
impossible? Could he become the
first teenager to beat a reigning
world No1 in a slam since Nadal
shocked Roger Federer at Roland
Garros in 2005? Could he emulate
the now forgotten Andrei Olhovskiy,
the last player outside the top 100 to
do so when he beat Jim Courier here
22 years ago? By now word had got
out that something special was
happening, and all the corporate
seats filled up, the Royal Box too.
If any of this history caused his
second double fault, he dismissed
the notion with another ace. But
Nadal – surprise, surprise – was not
done yet and took him to deuce for
the first time in the fifth game of
the second set, but could not crack
Then a bit of astonishing theatre: a
between-his-legs flick by the young
man that skimmed the net for a
winner that left even Nadal
He was less enamoured of Kyrgios
as they approached a second tie-
break. Usually it is his desperate
opponents who flirt with the white
lines; now he was doing it, petrified
of being drawn into another tie-
break that almost certainly would
leave him two sets down against a
player who, only a few weeks ago,
lost in the first round of a challenger
in Nottingham to a doubles
specialist, John-Patrick Smith,
ranked 185 in the world. But Nadal
broke for the first time to level at a
set apiece and the adrenaline rush
subsided – momentarily.
The third set was going Nadal’s way,
Kyrgios serving to get out of trouble
rather than dominate – and he
needed ace No29 to save set point
and force a second tie-break. Again
he prevailed. Ominously, a set up
against a man with 13 majors to his
name, he looked as relaxed as if he
were hosting a barbecue back home
in Canberra.
The ball was flitting in and out of
the evening shadows. “This is it!” he
shouted at himself, as he fluffed a
shot on the line aware that destiny
was his to grab by the neck. But he
regrouped instantly, as if nothing
had happened. At 6.55pm, Nadal
struck long , two hours and 45
minutes after they started for just
the second break of the match.
Kyrgios celebrated as if he had
already won not just the match but
the championship.
Within moments, the No1 was
serving to stay in the tournament at
2-5. He held to love. It was a last
gasp. Stepping up to create history,
Kyrgios did not falter. He trusted his
golden arm. You know how he
finished it, don’t you? With an ace.
What a game. What a day. What a

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