LONDON — There is no knowing where Nick Kyrgios is going. The 19-year-old arrived at Wimbledon out of nowhere and on Tuesday he blended anonymity, a ferocious serve, and an overall fearless, tenacious attack to knock off the world’s top-ranked player in Rafael Nadal.
Not bad for a nowhere man, a living and breathing and, yes, sashaying “Whodunit,’’ one whose mother even gave him little chance to beat Nadal, the game’s icon who less than a month ago pocketed yet another French Open title.
Noting that he was perturbed to read a newspaper account Monday night in which his mom offered him little hope of besting Nadal, Kyrgios deadpanned after the win, “I’ll just text her a smiley face.’’
Born April 27, 1995, in Canberra, Australia, the 6-foot-4-inch Kyrgios romped on the AELTC lawn, winning a pair of tiebreakers en route to a 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory over Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam winner. During the third set, which he won with a tiebreaker (7-5), he filched one point off Nadal by slipping the racket behind his back, dropping the head to the baseline, and popping the ball over the net from between his legs.
For a first time at Wimbledon, and playing Centre Court at that, Kyrgios displayed none of the jitters that often unravel some of the youngest and oldest players.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,’’ said a beaming Kryrgios, his country’s 2013 junior champ. “I was just overwhelmed with every feeling out there. I turned to my whole box, you know, just shared that moment with them. It still hasn’t hit me what I’ve done.’’
Kyrgios, after waving to family and friends in the stands, topped off the triumph with a quick dance at at Centre Court, a brief sashay that he dubbed the “Juicy Wiggle.’’
Nadal, who looked slightly preturbed by the shot Kyrgios struck from between his legs, was for the most part gracious in defeat. The star Spaniard made a point of waiting patiently on the court for Kyrgios to pack up his gear, adhering to the sometimes faltering tradition of opponents leaving the court in tandem.
Nadal, though, was reluctant to project just how far, or how quickly, Krygios can ascend the men’s side of the game. The hard-swinging kid arrived here ranked 144th in the world, a ranking that next week should move up to the mid-60s after this bit of splendor in the grass.
“Nineteen years old is a perfect age to be on the tour and play well,’’ said Nadal. “That’s what happened with all the great players in the past. [This] is nothing new.’’
Later, Nadal added, “At the end, it is difficult to be in the Top 10. Is something not easy to talk about because he can be top 10. I think he can do. Is not an issue that I think he cannot do it. I think he can do it . . . so it depends how the things improve over the next couple months, couple of years, for him.’’
Kyrgios’s game is not subtle. He hammers the ball and he dashes around the court with ease, especially for someone so tall and lean. His average first serve vs. Nadal was 120 miles per hour, with a top end of 133. He averaged a heat-seeking 99 with his second serves. Nadal, by comparison, averaged 112 on his frist, 90 on his second.
What made the day troubling, said Nadal, was that over four sets he was never able to read Kyrgios’s serve. If other opponents consistenly have that trouble, then Kyrgios could be in for a string of deep runs in the Slams.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a while,’’ said an effusive John McEnroe, here commenting for the BBC. “We’ve kept saying, ‘Who’ll be the next guy?’ I think we found him. I mean, I’m like, ‘How did he keep that up?’ I could see from the commentating box, he absolutely believed he could win that match . . . kinda like [Boris] Becker, a fearless teenager, sort of, ‘Whatever comes my way, I’m going to be better than them.’ ’’