Young, brash and bold, 19 year old Australian Wild Card Nick Kyrgios sprung the upset of the decade this afternoon on Centre Court, defeating World Number One Rafael Nadal 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Nick who? Many of the 15,000 in attendance may have asked prior to the contest, they soon found out. Kyrgios announced his arrival amongst the tennis elite in stunning fashion, his performance at times as insolent as it was breathtaking. Nadal a 14 time Grand Slam Champion one of the most indomitable competitors tennis has ever seen, swept aside by a Wild Card, how could it be? Young and reckless, Kyrgios showed no respect for Nadal’s achievements from the outset. The very first point set the tone for the contest- Kyrgios banged an ace. One of the 37 untouchable serves he would hit over the course of the afternoon. Kyrgios is a man with a big game and even bigger personality. Standing at a gangly 6 ft 4 and sporting a flashy haircut he yelled, fist pumped and celebrated with a level of exuberance Centre Court has not seen in years- youthful abandon at its finest. As the first set entered a tie-break it became increasingly clear Kyrgios had not come to lie down, take the plaudits and head home back to Canberra. He had come to win.
The Australian continued to serve emphatically, snatching the first set tie-break 7-5. It was okay, Nadal would come back, he was simply sizing his opponent up and coming to grips with the Australian’s game before mounting another herculean escape effort. At least that’s what the script read.
As he had done in his three previous matches at this year’s Championships, Nadal looked to rally from a set to love down. He finally made inroads on the 19 year old’s serve at 6-5 in the second set; breaking to level the match at 1 set apiece. If Kyrgios dropped his head, slumped his shoulders and succumbed to defeat at this point his efforts would have been lauded. After all in his first appearance at Wimbledon, ranked 144th in the World he had made the last 16, showing remarkable poise and fighting spirit for a man of his age- he saved an astonishing 9 match points in his victory over Richard Gasquet in the second round.
As the third set unfolded it looked as if Kyrgios was starting to tire. Nadal was beginning to impose his will on the match, running his opponent side to side more often in extended baseline exchanges whilst serving with confidence and precision. Rafa had momentum experience on his side, but as fate would have it, on this historic late afternoon experience and momentum went out the window. Krygios hung tough as the third set headed into another tie-break, he then proceeded to push forward and place himself on the cusp of a legendary victory, out serving and out hitting Nadal on his way to a 2 sets to 1 lead. With the end in sight, Kyrgios continued in the manner he had started the match- emphatic and aggressive. He pounded his way to a 5-3 4th set lead and now he would serve for one of the most momentous victories of all time. The 19 year old unfazed, insolent, and as brash as ever, arrived at match point and finished with you guessed it- another thunderous ace the exclamation mark on an otherworldly performance
Finally. At long last men’s tennis has another teenage phenom. The boyhood champion is a dying breed in a modern game based around power and physical fitness, Kyrgios may not be a champion yet; but he certainly played like one today. His booming serve and towering physique are reminiscent of the last ever teenager to win the Men’s Singles Title at Wimbledon: Boris Becker who marched to the title in 1985. Today wasn’t just a win for Kyrgios it was a victory for the ATP tour which is in desperate need of a shot in the arm and some fresh young talent at the top of the sport. Young and reckless Kyrgios has hit the fast forward button, the future starts now.