In what has been the most surprising upset in The Championships at Wimbledon so far, 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios — playing in his first singles appearance at the All England Club — stunned everyone who knows anything about tennis by defeating Rafael Nadal, who is arguably the best clay court player in history and was the world No. 1 entering into the tournament, in four sets. The final score, 7-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, might be underselling how onesided the match looked in real time, which saw Nadal playing a step slow and a breath short for the majority of their exchanges.
While Nadal’s continual struggles at Wimbledon (after winning it all in 2010 and returning to the finals in ’11, Nadal hasn’t come close to victory since) are a bummer, Kyrgios’ meteoric rise is not. Blessed by Rod Laver — the best tennis player to hail from Australia, as well as the name on one of the coolest pair of Adidas ever made — the new Australian phenom is slated to crack the world 100 whatever else he accomplishes in this tournament. But who is he? What does he do? What else is there to him?
As you might expect for a 19 year old, we can’t exactly delve into a well-developed resume of past accomplishments. That said, there are things to learn about Nick Kyrgios, and we aim to elucidate what those are.
1. He’s Already Contributed to Tennis History
Not just in the sense that everyone, everywhere is contributing to history at all times. With his win earlier today, Kyrgios became the first wildcard in the last ten years to make it all the way to the quarter finals, as well as becoming the first player on the outside of the top 100 to defeat the world No. 1 since 1992, when Andrei Olhovskiy defeated Jim Courier in the third round all the way back in 1992. For the completists, Nick was ranked 144 coming into Wimbledon. Additionally, he’s the first teenager to beat Nadal, and the first teenager to beat the world No. 1 at a grand slam.
2. But He Was Far From a Total Surprise
Kyrgios wasn’t “supposed” to beat Nadal, according to the conventional wisdom — he was still supposed to be in the the stage of his professional tennis career where he’s little more than a promising prospect who puts up enough effort that sportswriters can describe his matches as “spirited” and “notable” before pouring praise out on the typical cast of winners that populate the Majors. That said, the Australian teenager with the adult rated serve wasn’t exactly an unknown commodity before Wimbledon started.
He’d won his first match the Australian Open earlier this year, and had achieved significant success as a Junior. In fact, he’d become the youngest ATP tournament winner since Nadal won his first. According to Pete McNamara, who talked to The Guardian before the match, “Nick’s got something special, [a]nd he’s come of age here.”
3. His Mom Wasn’t Sure He Could Beat Nadal
Before the match, Kyrgios was offered some bulletin board material from an unlikely source. “My mum said before the match that she thought he [Nadal] was too good,” he revealed to reporters after the match. “So that actually made me a bit angry the night that I saw that.” If this sort of thing can inspire him to land more points like the one above — a between the legs shot — we hope she doesn’t change her tone in the slightest. Kyrgios would land 37 aces in the match.
Kyrgios is set to play Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, a Canadian who came into the tournament as the world No. 9. He, like Kyrgios, is known for his hard serving game.