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Rafael Nadal stunned by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios

by Alix Ramsay
Tuesday 1 July 2014

Nick Kyrgios never doubted that he had the talent to do it. The 15,000 people packed into Centre Court were willing him to do it. And when Rafa Nadal dropped his serve to go 3-1 down in the fourth set, he had a nagging fear that had no way of stopping him doing it. The only person who never believed it was possible for 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios to beat the world No.1 at Wimbledon was his mum, Norlaila.

No.1 son proved mum so, so wrong on a sunny Tuesday night at Wimbledon. For two minutes shy of three hours, he had delighted and amazed the crowd, the pundits, the commentators and all those cheery souls sat out on Murray Mound. Nadal may not have been delighted but he was certainly amazed – stunned, more like – as the young man from Canberra walloped him 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.

The mother of tennis’s new superstar, meanwhile, must have been wording her congratulatory text carefully. She had given an interview to Australian TV the night before the match and had predicted that her son might not be able to win; that man Nadal was just a bit too good.

“That made me a little bit angry the night before,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t know what she’s thinking. She can think what she wants.

“You’ve got to believe you can win the match from the very start. I’ve been playing really good tennis on the grass. I was a bit in the zone out there, I didn’t even notice the crowd that much. I was serving to a really good level and I played some extraordinary tennis.”

He did that all right but, then again, he has been playing extraordinary tennis ever since he got here.

When he saved nine match points against Richard Gasquet in the second round, everyone congratulated Australia on finding a young hope for the future. When he backed that up by beating Jiri Vesely in the next round, we all thought the Aussies had found one to watch. But for Kyrgios to kick on and flatten Nadal without so much as a hint of a nerve, that was unbelievable. He is 19, he is 6ft 4in and he is a fantastic talent – just think what he will be like when he grows up.

To put this into some sort of perspective, Nadal had accumulated 14 Grand Slam titles on his way to this year’s Wimbledon; Kyrgios had won two main draw, Grand Slam matches (one in Australia this year and one at Roland Garros last summer). Nadal had won $70,505,136 over the course of his career, $5,867,452 of it this season; our Australian new star has pocketed $119,402 since January and $235,084 since he tried earning a crust on the professional tour. But more importantly, this was Nadal we were talking about, the mighty Rafa. What did Kyrgios think he was doing?

Maybe that was the trick: maybe Kyrgios just wasn’t thinking. Well, not thinking about where he was or what he was doing. He just kept thumping his serve (37 aces and 68 unreturned serves in all) and doing things with his backhand that the laws of physics decreed ought not to be allowed. The angles he created with it, the winners he generated with it, had the Centre Court crowd gasping with disbelief and sheer pleasure. Kyrgios is not only a fine player now with the potential to be a truly sensational star in the future, he is also great fun to watch.

The sheer chutzpah of youth allowed him to play with aggression and freedom in the first set but when Nadal snatched back the second, breaking his tormentor in the last game of the set, there was every reason to think Kyrgios’s bubble would burst. After all, once Nadal gains momentum, he is almost impossible to stop.

And, to no one’s surprise, Kyrgios did look deflated at the start of the third set – for all of a game or so. When Nadal made the Aussie wait to serve – Nadal was organising his towels at the back of the court and faffing about with the ballkids – Kyrgios was not to be intimidated. Nadal had barely assumed the position on the baseline before the new sensation welted two unreturnable serves past him. Nadal would be playing to Kyrgios’s tempo from now on, thank you very much.

From there, Kyrgios was off and running. His minor moment of disappointment was over and chasing Nadal all the way to the third set tie-break, he got his reward. By the fourth set, Nadal had run out of ideas and Kyrgios was into the quarter-finals. There he will meet Milos Raonic and his huge serve – the turf is going to take a pounding on Wednesday when those two try to settle their differences. It would be interesting to know who Mrs Kyrgios thinks will win that one.

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