The walls were closing in on Rafael Nadal, and Nick Kyrgios kept swinging like a man eager to bring them down. The wild card barged onto Centre Court with the belief he belonged, then banged 37 aces to bounce the world No. 1 and 14-time Grand Slam champion out of the tournament, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Kyrgios showed his competitive spirit in fighting off nine match points to out-duel Richard Gasquet, and asserted his explosive game displacing the two-time champion. The 19-year-old wearing a diamond stud in his left ear and the Zorro-style design in his hair played with plenty of bravado, showed his skill as a shotmaker—Kyrgios cracked 70 winners, including a between-the-legs forehand winner—and closed with confidence. The world No. 144 played the match of his life and looked like he had the time of his life in the process.
Nadal did not play poorly, but faced a fearless opponent who didn't let him play much at all. Nadal served 73 percent and denied two of the three break points he faced, but could not solve Kyrgios' wrecking ball serve. Showing no trace of nerves in his Centre Court debut, the 6'5" Aussie threw down seven aces in his first three service games for a 3-2 advantage. Kyrgios blasted through four service games at love, winning all 19 points played on his first serve in the opening set.
Serving at 5-6, the second seed dodged a set point when Kyrgios' forehand return missed the mark. But Kyrgios burst out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker and snuck his 12th ace down the middle for three more set points. Thumping his 13th ace—a 122 M.P.H. dart wide—Kyrgios captured the 48-minute first set permitting just four points on serve.
An expansive strike zone—Kyrgios can drive the low ball and smack the shoulder-high shot with equal vigor—quick-strike mentality, and a wall-banging serve made the Aussie a powerful puzzle for Nadal. The world No. 1 dropped the opening set for the fifth straight match and had to play catch-up against an opponent steamrolling through service games.