19 year-old Nick Kyrgios stunned No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbeldon earlier this week, shining the spotlight on a rising star in tennis. Kyrgios, an Australian teenager, beat Nadal to the tune of 7-6,5-7,7-6,6-3.
Although Kyrgious was recently pushed out by Raonic with a respectable 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 in the quarterfinals on July 2nd, his second Wimbeldon showing proves that he is a young force to be reckoned with. Look out for him in the near future.
Here is why:
Kyrgios consistently served in the 110+ miles per hour range and rang up 37 aces against hard-hitting Nadal. With that match, he brought his total aces in this Wimbeldon to more than 100 (Chase).
On top of that, in his match against Nadal Kyrgios averaged 118 miles per hour in service (O’Shannessy).
Considering that Kyrgios is fresh feet to big-time professional tennis and the adjustment period to the speed of the game, especially on Wimbeldon’s fast grass, this pace is impressive. Kyrgios seemed like a natural, and we can expect him to excel on the surface in his future tournaments.
It was not just with shots like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edtv4IIZmJM, but also efficiency combined with powerful shots. In his match against Nadal, this is how he matched up on winners and errors:
Kygrios: 70 winners against 31 unforced errors
Nadal: 44 winners to 18 unforced errors
With 60% more winners and 60% less unforced errors, Kygrios proved to be more consistent and drive points beyond his serve. Going forward, this may be a key to his game, especially if he wants to make a route in doubles play.
“We’re watching a young boy turn into a man,” observed John McEnroe (Mitchell).
Just a year ago, Kygrios was hoping to break 300 in USTA rankings, and after Wimbeldon, his ranking of 144 will most likely drop to single digits (McDonald). If he is able to keep his humility, Kygrios can go a long way from that number.
Finally, in telling fashion, the last teenager to defeat a USTA ranked #1 player in a major tournament was Rafa himself.
If Kygrios is able to channel the public eye into productive partnerships, coaches, and training, his momentous win could spark a series of improvements to his game and eventual wins.
On top of that, Kyrgios is self-aware of his strength as a power player. In singles, he used that natural inclination to approach the net 126 during his Wimbeldon route, winning 64% of those points. Still, in professional tennis, there stands place to improve. That improvement can come from developing an equally-compelling backhand to match his powerful forehand or mix the variation of spin in his shots overall (ESPN).
What’s to come
For Kyrgios to break through the Top 20 eventually, he will need to round out his game beyond a strong serve and finesse. Maybe he can start taking notes from Federer. But it also may just be more experience at the professional level. Given his success as an amateur and now his big win over Nadal, Kyrgios should have the confidence to overcome the jitters even his mom picked up.
Kyrgios narrowly escaped a second-round loss from Richard Gasquet earlier this week, and mentioned he needed to play “loose” to beat Nadal, which he surely did (Chase).
From this perspective, it is maturing his game through more match time and learning how to handle the pressure of professional tennis.
With an aging Federer and oft-crippled Nadal, maybe it is time for another Big Four in professional men’s tennis. That shift may come from Kyrgios in five years, or from players hovering in the top 10. Either way, Wimbeldon is always a time of reflection and a stage for rising tennis stars.
As Boris Becker said after watching Federer win his first Grand Slam at Wimbeldon 2003: “The future has come”(Hayward).
Is Kygrios the future of men’s tennis, Australian tennis, or neither? Discuss below.