Nick Kyrgios – the next Australian hero?

After his extraordinary win against world number 1 Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios is now being hailed as the next superstar of Australian tennis.

That title certainly isn’t without merit. Kyrgios has all the tools to do some real damage in the future. I speak of his giant serve, big ground strokes and his competency at the net and on the run. He’s shown it all at Wimbledon and he gave a great account of himself earlier in the year at the Australian Open too.

He might have the talent, but he’s also got a great story behind him that people all around the country are slowly falling in love with. A young 19 year-old teenager who comes from an everyday family in Canberra, Kyrgios first picked up a tennis racquet at four and hasn’t looked back since. He was a young, out-of-shape boy who was just giving tennis a try – no one knew quite the person that Nick was going to become.

Nick Kyrgios was an out-of-shape 4 year-old when he first picked up a tennis racquet

Growing up, he was a promising basketballer who represented the ACT and Australia in his early teens before deciding to focus on tennis at 14. Kyrgios joined the junior world tour and won his first tournament in June of 2010 at just 15. A year later, Kyrgios got a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport where he developed his game further.

He made his debut on the junior circuit at the Australian Open in 2011 before winning two doubles grand slam titles in 2012 at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. He reached number three in the singles rankings before victory at the 2013 Australian Open against fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis would take him to the heights of world number 1.

Kyrgios made his first ever grand slam appearance at the French Open in 2013 where he surprised everyone by winning his way into the second round. He followed that up with an appearance in the main draw of the US Open later in the year, before he really put his name up in the spotlight by reaching the second round of this years Australian Open.

Nick Kyrgios won his first round match against German veteran Benjamin Becker in four sets. Krygios showed off his massive serve to Australia on his way to 34 aces in the match including nine in the deciding set. He also won 91% of points on his first serve and struck a whopping 71 winners.

In the second round of the Australian Open, Kyrgios was up two sets to none against the 27th seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire. By that time, Kyrgios would have certainly been tired after a tough four set match a few days prior and his inexperience showed as he lost the next three sets.

Benoit Paire acknowledges the gallant effort of Nick Kyrgios when they met at the Australian Open earlier this year

What has happened at Wimbledon thus far could only come as a complete shock to everyone. Kyrgios faced an interesting task in his opening round match against Stephane Robert. Robert (a lucky loser entry into the Australian Open main draw earlier this year) made his way to the fourth round in that tournament and was not to be taken lightly by the Australian young gun.

Kyrgios won the opening two sets in tie-breakers and could have easily won the third in a tie-break too if it weren’t for some clutch shots by Robert. Kyrgios though came back in the fourth and took it 6-2 on the back of just two unforced errors in the set.

Things became a lot tougher in the second round when Kyrgios faced another Frenchman just as he did earlier in the year in Melbourne. The only problem was that the resume of this particular Frenchman was much better than his predecessor. Kyrgios showed all his fighting spirit as he won in five very tough sets against world number 13 Richard Gasquet. Fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt would have been proud of the way Kyrgios fought right until the very death of the match – a trait that Hewitt himself has had his whole career.

Kyrgios lost the opening two sets to Gasquet, but fought hard in the third and fourth sets to level the match at two-sets all. He lifted his game during those two sets, winning a lot more points on the back of his damaging first serve and slapping a few more winners past the French number two.

The Australian then hung tough in the deciding fifth set, fighting off not one but nine match points as he would eventually triumph 10-8 in the match of his life, marking his first appearance in a grand slam third round.

Things were a little more comfortable against Czech Jiri Vesely, as Kyrgios came from a set down to win in four. He put a lot more pressure on the Vesely service game in the latter three sets and also got his serve working better to power his way to victory and a fourth round blockbuster against Rafael Nadal.

Nick Kyrgios couldn’t believe his luck when he beat Czech Jiri Vesely

Coming into the match, most experts just believed that the young Australian was going to put up a good fight against the world number one. They were suggesting that the best case scenario for Kyrgios was to take a set off of Rafael Nadal. No one in their right mind expected Kyrgios to win, but someone forgot to tell him that.

Both men shared the spoils in the opening set as neither was going to let the other break their serve. Kyrgios jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening-set tiebreak, unleashing some venom on the forehand side in particular. Nadal saved two set points but when Nick had the ball in his hand and was serving for the set, he was as confident as ever, racking up 13 aces on his way to taking the opener.

Both men again held serve during the second set, but Kyrgios was unable to stay in it when serving at 5-6. Nadal raced to a 0-30 lead on the Kyrgios serve and although the young Australian worked his way back into things, the Spaniard got the points he needed to get himself going in the match and level it at a set all.

The third set was much like the first, both players not giving an inch on their service game, though unlike the first Nadal was unchallenged on his serve and it was Kyrgios who was having to absorb the pressure from the world number one. Kyrgios got to 5-6 yet again, but unlike the second set, the Aussie got out to a 30-0 lead and didn’t look back.

He got the mini break he needed during the tie-breaker and served it out 7-5 to take a two sets to one lead. It seemed as though the match was turning to Nadal’s favour but he failed to find the break required and Kyrgios made him pay dearly.

Things were on-serve in the fourth set until Kyrgios put himself in the drivers seat, breaking the Nadal serve to lead 3-1. Kyrgios showed an eye-catching combination of great touch and raw power to power himself to a commanding lead in the fourth set, one that he would hold on to as he led 5-3 and was to serve for the victory.

Kyrgios served it out to love thanks to a few handy aces, toppling the 14-time grand slam champion in emphatic style.

Nick Kyrgios salutes the crowd after his emphatic victory against Rafael Nadal

Over the past week, Australian’s have seen the great traits of past tennis legends all rolled into one young man – Nick Kyrgios. The touch around the net, the fight, the never-say-die attitude and the great ground strokes, as well as the power of the modern tennis star. These are all things that Kyrgios has which could make him into a truly great player.

Caution must be taken though, as just three years ago another young Australian by the name of Bernard Tomic also reached his first ever grand slam quarter final at Wimbledon. While the pair are two quite different players, the Australian public do have the tendency to jump on someone very quickly and then kick them aside just as easily, but with the combination of a great attitude and tennis skills seen in Nick Krygios, it is hard to imagine people doing that to him any time soon.

At just 19 years of age this young boy from Canberra still has lots of time on his side and plenty of learning to do, but after what he has shown the past few days the foundations are there for a top 10 player and grand slam champion to be born. The victory against Nadal will propel Kyrgios up the rankings from 144 to at least 68 and has pocketed him more than $387,000 USD.

As far as becoming an Australian hero goes, Kyrgios is certainly on his way to doing just that. His personality will capture a lot of hearts around Australia and his play on the court will capture many more. If he continues to progress in his career and play with the same attitude and flair that he has shown thus far, there is no reason to think that Nick Kyrgios couldn’t be the name circling around Australia for many years to come.

His next test will come against 8th seed Milos Raonic early in the morning of Thursday July 3 (about 2am). Raonic is coming off a four-set victory against the 10th seed Kei Nishikori that is sure to have him riding a wave of momentum as well. With both players having massive serves and great ground strokes, it is sure to be a match certainly worth watching.