A third Wimbledon title is no longer in the cards for world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, as the overwhelming favorite shockingly fell 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to Australian 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios Tuesday in an epic fourth-round encounter at Wimbledon.
The win is unquestionably the biggest of Kyrgios' career, and it eliminates one member from the "Big Four" equation, with only Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray remaining.
Kyrgios' victory was hugely unexpected by most, and he was at somewhat of a loss for words after the match, according to SI Tennis:
“I think I was in a bit of a zone out there. I didn’t really notice the crowd that much. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.” - Kyrgios— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) July 1, 2014
“I saw in an interview my mom said he was too good. That made me a little bit angry.” - Kyrgios, whose mom didn’t give him a shot.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) July 1, 2014
BBC Tennis shared this detail on the upset win:
Kyrgios has long been viewed as one of tennis' future stars, but his development seems to be coming along faster than most expected. Even Kyrgios is cognizant of that, but he still intended to go for the gusto against Nadal, per Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com:
I never thought that I would be seeing Nadal in the Wimbledon fourth round at 19. I thought it would take years and years of work to finally have an opportunity like that. ... Of course I have nothing to lose out there. Anything is possible. I'm just going to go out there and play my game. I think that's definitely enough to be competitive.
In addition to his all-or-nothing attitude, Kyrgios also entered the match with the benefit of a good sense of humor about the serious situation that awaited him, according to Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times:
"Obviously there's 14 Slams between us, so it's going to be a good match." -19 year-old Nick Kyrgios on playing Rafael Nadal. #Wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 1, 2014
Although the odds certainly seemed to be stacked against the Aussie, his opponent knows a thing or two about what it takes to knock off a top star at a young age, per BBC Tennis:
Nick Kyrgios aims to be 1st teen to beat a world No.1 at a Grand Slam since Nadal (19) beat Federer, R.Garros '05 pic.twitter.com/6Hssqv8xXR— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) July 1, 2014
Perhaps Kyrgios was able to channel some of that knowledge and use it against Nadal. He looked every bit the Spanish star's equal throughout the early going.
Kyrgios and Nadal traded comfortable holds of serve, and it wasn't until Nadal's third service game that there was some actual competition between them, according to BBC's Archie Rhind-Tutt:
Taken until 6th game of Kyrgios v Nadal for there to be a point won off serve that wasn't a double fault. Tight margins #Wimbledon— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) July 1, 2014
Rafa looked quite strong on serve in his own right throughout the opening set, but Kyrgios was even better. As pointed out by analyst Brad Gilbert, Kyrgios seemed quite comfortable playing the underdog role:
Great start from Nick Kyrgios showing non signs of nervs, serving bombs vs Rafa in the 1st set— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) July 1, 2014
Craig O'Shannessy of The New York Times agreed and alluded to Kyrgios dictating the play more so than Nadal:
According to Tennis Now, Kyrgios was nearly perfect on serve, which allowed him to push Rafa to a tiebreak:
Kyrgios: 11 aces and dropped only three points on serve vs. Rafa in set one. Nadal serving to force a breaker now... #Wimbledon— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) July 1, 2014
Kyrgios raced out to a 4-0 lead, and while Nadal was able to mount a bit of a comeback, it was too much to overcome. Kyrgios served out the tiebreak 7-5 to take a 1-0 lead in sets and put the pressure on the two-time Wimbledon champion.
Although it obviously wasn't the desired result for Rafa in the opening set, he has gotten used to falling behind as of late, per Wimbledon's official Twitter account:
The hold fest continued throughout the first half of the second set, with each player holding three times apiece. Although Nadal was able to hold once again to go up 4-3, Kyrgios came up with the shot of the match during that game as he hit a between-the-legs winner behind the baseline:
Kyrgios hits a casual tweener during a neutral rally that lands for a winner. The kid is loving the big stage, and it's mutual. #Wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 1, 2014
It didn't impact Rafa since it occurred while he led 40-0 on serve, but it was representative of how loosely and confidently Kyrgios was playing.
Nadal and Kyrgios resumed their serving dominance until Rafa held a 6-5 advantage. That is when the door finally opened a crack for Nadal, and he kicked it open by breaking for the first time and winning the set, according to Steve Tignor of Tennis.com:
Just a bit of casualness from Kyrgios in that last game, on a volley and a flip shot crosscourt. Nadal breaks to win 2nd set.— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) July 1, 2014
The third set was much like the first two, as both players struggled to get anything going during the service games of the opposition. Naturally, the set required another tiebreak, which went down to the wire.
Rafa served trailing 6-5 in the tiebreak, and Kyrgios showed nerves of steel as he won the point and the set to force Nadal's back against the wall, per Neil Harman of The Times:
Nadal is going to have to go five to reach QF. Kyrgios, on fire, takes third set breaker. A story on the cards.— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) July 1, 2014
Kyrgios' incredible play continued during the fourth set as he scored his most significant blow of the match. Leading 2-1, Kyrgios managed to break Rafa for the first time and send the No. 2 seed reeling.
The Aussie upstart quickly consolidated with a hold of serve against a seemingly listless Nadal, per Carole Bouchard of L'Equipe:
Way too many mistakes from Nadal when rallies start. And no pressure at all put on Kyrgios who's having a huge day sensations wise. 4-1.— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 1, 2014
Nadal tried to battle back, but he was simply unable to disrupt Kyrgios' serve as the youngster shocked the tennis world by serving out the match and winning in four sets.
This is a landmark win for the young Kyrgios, as it announces his unexpected arrival as a major player in the men's game. Kyrgios has been a top prospect for the past few years, but beating a player of Nadal's caliber on the big stage is a huge leap forward.
How will Kyrgios fare at Wimbledon 2014?
Kyrgios has put himself in position to face another young gun in the quarterfinals in the form of Canada's Milos Raonic. While Raonic is well ahead of Kyrgios in terms of development—he is four years older—they are very similar players with huge serves.
That should be a fantastic match, with both players vying to potentially face Wimbledon legend Roger Federer in the next round.
As for Nadal, this is simply the latest in a long line of recent Wimbledon disappointments. This is the furthest Nadal has made it since reaching the final in 2011, but that is no consolation.
While Nadal has continued to dominate the clay at Roland Garros, his play on other surfaces has been inconsistent. All Nadal can do now is lick his wounds, prepare for the hard court of the U.S. Open and hope that this loss doesn't impact his psyche too much.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter