WIMBLEDON – You would have given Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios a puncher's chance – a server's chance – in his fourth-round match on Wimbledon's Centre Court against two-time champion Rafael Nadal Tuesday.
One chance was all he needed, as the 19-year-old advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory. He won't have the customary day off before he plays a member of Generation Next, 23-year-old Milos Raonic of Canada. It's straight back at it.
If Raonic is Gen-Next along with No. 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov (who will be on Centre Court Wednesday in a quarter-final match against Andy Murray), then Kyrgios is Gen-Next-Next.
"I think I was in a bit of a zone out there, didn't really notice the crowd that much. I played some extraordinary tennis, was struggling a bit on return but worked my way into it," Kyrgios told the BBC after the victory. "I served at a really good level today all throughout the match, so I was really happy."
After Kyrgios pulled out the first set in a tiebreak, it took all that Nadal had just to fight to win the second set. And when Kyrgios pulled out the third-set tiebreak, he was fist-pumping and leaping with all the energy of an overgrown colt who needed to let off some steam in the paddock.
And he did this:
By the fourth set, Nadal looked fresh out of the "solutions" he always talks about trying to find. Kyrgios kept serving, and hitting. And Nadal was the one who ended the points with his errors.
As Kyrgios served for it at 5-3, with the match clock getting close to three hours, there was no pressure apparent in any part of his body, it was the 28-year-old Nadal whose legs looks weary.
Kyrgios held at love, finishing it with a 125-mph ace - his 37th of the match.
"The thing is, this surface," Nadal said, shaking his head, "When you have an opponent who decides to serve and hit the ball very strong, you are in trouble. And I think that I didn't play really bad. But that's the game on this surface.
"In the second and the third set I was better than him, but I wasn't able to convert those opportunties. And for the rest I think he played better than me," Nadal added. "In general, talking about what you need to win on this surface, he did those things better than me."
A brief handshake from Nadal when it was over, and Kyrgios had his head in his hands, a look of disbelief on his face before he looked at his supporters.
"I'm pretty happy. That's the biggest win of my career obviously, and that's something I'm never going to forget. I'm going to draw so much confidence out of that no matter where I play now. To have that under my belt, it's massive," he said. "Never did I think a week ago I was going to make the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in my first appearance. Geez, I'm sure some of you have 19-year-old kids. I'm exactly the same."
After the win, Kyrgios then did a little dance on the court – he later said he didn't even know what it was, exactly, just something he and his mates cooked up; called it the :juicy wiggle" – then threw half the contents of his bag at the crowd and walked off the court knowing he has more work to do, as though it were no big deal for a wild card ranked No. 144 to beat Nadal, make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and have a good chance to go further.
"I think you've got to believe you can win the match from the start. I'm playing some unbelievable tennis on the grass. He hit some extraordinary shots, that's a level he'll always bring. I think we played some pretty good tennis out there," he said.
Kyrgios saved nine match points before defeating No. 13 Richard Gasquet earlier in the tournament. So he probably wasn't even supposed to be here. He is the lowest ranked player to defeat Nadal since Joachim Johansson, then ranked No. 690 but a former top-20 player, defeated him in Stockholm in 2006.
It's worth noting here – no pressure – that a wild card has won Wimbledon. He wasn't just any old wild card, though. Goran Ivanisevic was a former finalist who was given one last shot by the tournament in 2001 and ended up winning it all.
It was more a courtesy for old times' sake, after injuries did a number on the Croat's career. Kyrgios is a true wild card, in the strictest and truest sense of the world.
He also is the first teenager to defeat a world No. 1 at a Grand Slam since ... some long-haired kid named Nadal showed up at the French Open for the first time and defeated Roger Federer, nine years ago.
So there's a certain symmetry to what happened on Centre Court Tuesday evening.