If you’re one of those people going “Nick, who??” after watching 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios whiplash 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal out of the fourth round of Wimbledon today, you should definitely continue reading on. Kyrgios has been making waves over the past 18 months after beginning the 2013 season ranked outside the top 800. Here are 10 things you need to know about Kyrgios, the man that everybody has tipped to be the next great champion in the men’s game.
1. Tremendous success on the junior circuit
Kyrgios is a former top-ranked junior, attaining the World No. 1 spot in the ITF junior rankings in January 2013. He won the 2013 Australian Open boys’ singles title and three junior Grand Slam doubles titles, including the 2013 Wimbledon boys’ doubles title.
2. Skilled at multiple sports
As a teenager. Kyrgios showed remakrable skill at both basketball and tennis. When he was 14, he finally had to make a choice between the two and unfortunately for Nadal, the Australian of Greek-Malaysian descent chose tennis. In an interview with the ATP Tour website, Kyrgios said, “It was probably the toughest decision I had to make, but my family was pretty keen on me taking up tennis. I love to play sports a lot so it was an easy transition to fully concentrate on tennis. It’s a choice I’m not regretting.”
3. The highest-ranked teenager in the world
Kyrgios is currently ranked No. 144 in the world, making him the highest-ranked teenager on the men’s professional circuit. HIs results this fortnight will see him break into the top 100 of the world rankings – the last time a teenager made it that far was in 2011 when his infamous countryman Bernard Tomic did the same.
4. The saver of a million match points
Kyrgios saved nine match points during his second round 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 win over ninth seed Richard Gasquet at this year’s tournament. The only other male player to save as many match points in a Grand Slam singles win was American Florent Serra in the first round of the 2004 French Open
5. Emulating Djokovic, Nadal and del Potro
Kyrgios has won four titles on the ATP Challenger circuit – one rung below the main ATP World Tour. Three of those have come this year and the most recent of those came on the grass courts of Nottingham. He is one of only 15 players to have won an ATP Challenger title before their 18th birthday (others in the list include Novak Djokovic, Nadal, and Juan Martin del Potro)
6. A Roger Federer disciple
Kyrgios grew up idolizing Roger Federer. And while he may have brightened the Swiss’ chances of an 18th Slam title by knocking out Nadal, Kyrgios could end up as a roadblock in Federer’s quest for G.O.A.T.-ness. The two are slated to meet in the semi-finals here if they win their respective quarter-final matches on Wednesday,
7. Heralding the re-emergence of Aussie power in tennis
The last of Kyrgios’ three junior Grand Slam doubles titles came with fellow Aussie and good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, the same player who he beat in the final of the junior Australian Open final in 2013. The two are close friends (Kokkinakis is also of Greek descent) and have this to say about each other – Kokkinakis: “We want to be the face of Australian and hopefully world tennis''. Kyrgios: “I feel me and Thanasi have the ability to do something special in the sport but it’s a bit early to say that. We need to stay grounded, stay humble and keep working hard.”
8. The first teenager to defeat a World No. 1 since 2005
Kyrgios is the first player born in the 1990s to beat Nadal. The last time a teenager beat the World No. 1 at a Grand Slam event was when Nadal defeated Federer at the 2005 French Open. Kyrgios also leads the tournament ace count with 113 aces through four rounds so far. The Australian is also doanting £5 for each ace hit by him to the Rally for Bally fund in memory of the late British tennis player Elena Baltacha, who passed away from liver cancer earlier this year at the age of 30.
9. New coaching arrangement
Kyrgios has worked with Tennis Australia coach Simon Rea over the past 18 months while he has skyrocketed up the rankings. But the 19-year-old will not be working with Rea post Wimbledon. Kyrgios is keen to move back to his native Canberra from his current base in Melbourne, where Rea stays, and the two decided to split amicably after Wimbledon. Kyrgios was expected to work with Todd Larkham, his coach from his junior days, but it remains to be seen if Tuesday’s shock result has any bearing on that decision.
10. A philosophical soul
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While teenagers his age are busy posting selfies on social media networks, Kyrgios is often seen posting inspirational quotes and messages on his social media accounts. Sample these from his official Facebook page – “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.” Also, this: “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”