2 Jul 2014

Who is Nick Kyrgios, the new Wimbledon 2014 poster boy?

Few people outside the world of professional tennis knew the name Nick Kyrgios on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday evening, after “that shot”, almost everyone did.

Nick Kyrgios (Getty)

The 19-year-old Australian casually dispatched world number one seed Rafa Nadal over four sets and unleashed a stunning between-the-legs shot that left the crowd, commentators and people watching at home stunned.

In defeating Nadal the wild card entry, ranked at 144 going into Wimbledon, achieved some impressive numerical milestones:

  • Kyrgios is the lowest ranking player to ever beat Nadal at a grand slam.
  • He is the first person born in the 1990s to beat Nadal.
  • He is the first player ranked outside the top 100 to beat a world number one at a slam in 22 years.
  • During the match he hit 37 aces past the notoriously ferocious server Nadal.
  • The teenager’s fastest serve was clocked at 133 miles per hour.

But should we be too surprised at his victory?

Kyrgios has been tipped for great things for some time now – with comparisons to Boris Becker who caused one of the greatest Wimbledon upsets in 1985 when, as an unseeded player, he won the championship at just 17 years old.

In recent weeks the likes of Andy Murray and Pat Cash have praised the young player’s ability, and following his victory over Nadal, John McEnroe is tipping him to win the tournament.

If McEnroe is correct, it will be a rare victory indeed. Only one wild card has ever won the men’s singles at Wimbledon – Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.

On Wednesday, Krygios’ brother Christo said: “We always believed in him and he believed in himself but to actually have it happen, it’s unreal. It’s crazy.”

Facts about Kyrgios

Kyrgios has a Greek-Australian father and a Malaysian mother and grew up in the Australian capital city, Canberra.

Kyrgios might have been a professional basketball player. He had to choose between the two sports aged 14 and chose tennis.

He is donating £5 for every ace he serves at Wimbledon to Rally for Bally, the fund set up in memory of former British number one Elena Baltacha. He leads the ace standings for the tournament with 113, making a total so far of £565.

Kyrgios' career earnings prior to Wimbledon were just over £130,000. Even if he loses to Milos Raonic in the last eight, he will take home £226,000.

But before the victory over Nadal, the tennis world was already away of Kyrgios’ talents. He is a former International Tennis Federation number one seed at junior level, and has a host of junior tournament wins to his name.

In 2013 he won the junior Australian Open and has won five singles titles since then including, most recently, the 2014 Aegon Nottingham Challenge.

Kyrgios is easing into his role as a professional tennis player and has already defeated some major names in the game. In the 2013 French Open he defeated world number eight Radek Stepanek – at the time the biggest win of his career.

At the start of the 2013 season he was 838 in the world, and has rapidly risen to 144. No matter how he does in the rest of Wimbledon, he is now guaranteed a top 100 spot.

How are wild cards selected?

A wild card is a player included at the discretion of a tournament's organising committee. Kyrgios is one of seven wild card entries into the men's singles contest.

The Lawn Tennis Association considers factors such as rank, recent results and whether or not entering a competition will bring significant development opportunities to a player.

It will also consider giving a wild card to a player if they have been recently injured, if it is thought that the tournament will help the player return to their former standard.

The LTA also considers the player's profile – a player with a significant public profile may receive a wild card in order to encourage interest in the sport.

Indeed, so respected is Kyrgios that he was recently invited to train with his idol, Roger Federer, in Zurich.

Kyrgios said afterwards that he felt he had “held his own” against the seven-time Wimbledon champ – though added that he felt Federer had gone easy on him at times.

And Federer is a fan of Kyrgios too – saying the teenager is “open to going for the big shots”, “strong physically” and has “really great potential”.

If both men make it through their next matches they will face each other in the semi-finals. But this time more people will believe that the youngster can more than “hold his own” again.