Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal feels pain of familiar misery

Spain's Rafael Nadal during a press conference after losing to Australia's Nick Kyrgios during day nine of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 1, 2014. See PA story TENNIS Wimbledon. Photo credit should read: Scott Heavey/AELTC/POOL/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No video emulation. No false commercial association. No manipulation of images. No use with any unofficial third party logos. No transmission of images to mobile services.
Spain's Rafael Nadal during a press conference after losing to Australia's Nick Kyrgios during day nine of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 1, 2014. See PA story TENNIS Wimbledon. Photo credit should read: Scott Heavey/AELTC/POOL/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No video emulation. No false commercial association. No manipulation of images. No use with any unofficial third party logos. No transmission of images to mobile services.

Hear that noise? It's the sound of a teenager tearing down the gates of Wimbledon.

Nick Kyrgios, a 19-year-old wild card from Australia, trampled all over world no.1 Rafa Nadal to take his place in the quarter-finals with one of the most astonishing displays ever witnessed on Centre Court.

Nadal, the most flamboyant player of his generation, the biggest ticket-seller in the game, was sent packing with an ace in Kyrgios' epic 7-6 5-7 7-6 6-3 victory.

There are few sights in sport as invigorating as that big bang moment when tomorrow's flashing blade comes raging into view.

Mindful that there will be many reading this who have yet to clap eyes on the kid from Canberra, transport yourself at some bacchanal temple of adolescent congress in Ibiza, the place is rocking and up on the decks is the dude of the hour setting fire to the night, bling attached at the neck and ear and the mark of Zorro razored into his shaven head.

This was pretty much how it was on Centre court.

He didn't have to win on his first visit here to make an impact. It was enough that he should walk into Rafa's house, help himself to a beer, and skip all over the furniture.

Thirty-seven aces, trick shots through the legs, exaggerated reactions to key points, Kyrgios gave it the full monty with attitude.

It was yet another shock early exit for two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal after last year's first round loss to Steve Darcis and 2012's second round loss to Lukas Rosol.

The first set was Kyrgios' on a tie-break. Nadal celebrated so loud at the conclusion of the second you knew it was mixed with relief at avoiding a second shoot-out, which was just one-point away in the only service game surrendered by Kyrgios to bring the scores level.

As the match wore on, Nadal showed signs of adapting without ever convincing he had the kid's measure. There was little he could do against the Kyrgios serve, save for hanging on and hoping for the best.

On serve he was handed a time penalty during the seventh game of the third set for overdoing the bounces and the twitches.

In the stands the Kyrgios fan club, dressed in t-shirts of Australian gold, would rise episodically to chirrup their support.

"Let's go Nicky, let's go!" Beyond that patriotic fringe, there were thousands in the audience flocking to his side, particularly those who like to wear their lids on backwards.

A trawl through his school reports reveal an exceptional performer coming through the ranks with a clutch of junior titles, including the Australian and French Open junior crowns.

He also won the Wimbledon doubles en route to the world no.1 junior ranking. But in terms of experience convention tells us Kyrgios was way out of his depth in this company.

Or should have been. Convention has no hold on tyros like this fellow.

There is no mould to contain them, save for the ones they create themselves.

Nadal was stretched to the edge of tolerance in the third set, losing it as he did the first by way of tie break.

Faced by an opponent without prior experience of the Nadal hammer, the world no.1 was in new territory, too.

The storm gathered greater force in the fourth, Kyrgios breaking Nadal in the sixth game to lead 4-2.

From there he needed only to serve out his games to book a match today with the big-hitting Milos Raonic of Canada.

Afterwards the words came out like his serves, in real torrents.

"That's the biggest win of my career, not one I shall ever forget. It hasn't sunk in yet," said Kyrgios.

"I was in the zone out there. I served at a good level. He was hitting some incredible shots, too. You have to believe you can win and I did that. I didn't know what to do at the end.

"I turned to those supporting me and chucked in a dance. I was overwhelmed with every feeling I was experiencing afterwards."

Kyrgios joked beforehand that between them he and Nadal had 14 grand slam titles.

Though the only dissenting voice was his mother's, who suggested the night before that Nadal might be too good.

"I haven't spoke to her yet. I'll just send her a smiley face," laughed the Australian afterwards.

Nadal was, as ever, a gentleman in defeat.

"When you have an opponent who serves that big you are in trouble. I didn't play really bad," said the Frenchman.

"That's the game on this surface. In the second and third sets I was better than him but was not able to convert the opportunities. And for the rest he was better than me.

"I was not able to read his serve all match. In the tie breaks that is an advantage.

"Sport is mental in many parts. Everything is a little easier when you are arriving. Everything is new, and you have nothing to lose at all. You see only the good things in your game.

"We will see in the future if he is able to continue in this fashion.

"For now it is not possible to say, but I wish him all the best for the future. I congratulate him. I tried my best as I always do. That's how sport works. And now for me, it's the beach."

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