Five reasons why Nick Kyrgios’ victory over Nadal is great for tennis
Nick Kyrgios’s four set victory over Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon is one of the best things to happen in tennis for a while. Here are five reasons why.
1. The game gets a new teen phenom after a lengthy drought
Kyrgios is the first teen to beat a world number One at a Major since 19 year old Nadal beat Roger Federer in the semis of the 2005 French Open. Even Nadal himself was somewhat reassured by Kyrgios’ victory at such a young age, saying in his post match interview that it was odd teenagers were not breaking through.
Teen phenoms used to be part and parcel of tennis. In 1989, Chang won the French Open as a 17 year old. Becker won Wimbledon at 17. Sampras won the US Open at 19. Edberg won the Australian Open at 17. Borg, Connors, Courier, Federer, Agassi, Hewitt, Roddick, Safin,Nalbandian all made the top ten as teens. And in the mid 2000s, Djokovic and Nadal were teenage sensations.
Compare that to now where 19 year old Kyrgios is the highest ranked teen at 144. Why does it matter? This leads us to reason 2.
2. Young kids get a young role model
Even Roger Federer has recently been wondering why there are no teenagers among the game’s elite and worrying about whether or not teens are being drawn to tennis. Well, he has good reason to worry. Today’s teens do not have any tennis star teens to look up to. And with teens doing so well in sports such as football and basketball, those are the sports teens are choosing.
Federer brought up several reasons why it was harder for teens to break through, the most poignant one being the slower courts benefitted the older players. Back when grass courts were lightning fast and hard courts quicker than they are now, faster, fresher teens like Becker could win Wimbledon at 17, or even 20 year old Safin could rip apart 29 year old Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final. Those days are long gone now, with players such as Murray winning their first slam at 26, Wawrinka at 28. The only player to break the mould recently has been Del Potro who won the US Open aged 21 in 2009.
But Krygios’s quickness of foot and aggressive game managed to win through against Nadal and prove to teens that teens could win big in tennis.
3. The more aggressive tennis won.
And so it should on grass. Kyrgios hit 37 aces, won 83 percent of the first serves he got in (68 percent), and hit 70 winners to 31 errors compared to Nadal’s 11 aces and 44-18 winner-error ratio. Nadal did serve well himself with a first serve percentage of 73 and winning 77 of those serves, but he was not in Kyrgios’ league, a fact he acknowledged in his post match interview.
Stats like that for Kyrgios bring us back to the days when aggression always trumped defense on grass, or the more aggressive game beat the less aggressive one as witnessed in the 90s, a time when apparantly grass court tennis was boring. Maybe to those who liked clay, or mediunm paced hard courts, but for those who reveled in the art of serving, volleying and point construction that ended in the forecourt, the days when the courts were all over uneven in color compared to the bright green of the service boxes now, Wimbeldon was something to savor.
Now it is the same as everywhere else. But Kyrgios is strong enough to hit through these slower courts, and fearless enough to do it in the big matches. It certainly made a change from what Nadal described as today’s normal game among the top stars, the game of athleticism over variety, of percentages over shotmaking.
This Wimbledon, with the likes of Cilic, Raonic and Kyrgios all in the last eight, the big serving, big hitting game is becoming the norm. And that can only be good if you think variety is the spice of life.
4. Performances like this put tennis in the headlines.
Kyrgios’s performance has hit the front pages the world over, the abnormal nature of his win grabbing people’s attention, getting tennis in the headlines, and waking up those who tuned out after watching the ball go back and forth 30 times from one baseline to another for the 30th time in a row, the point ended by an error, followed by waiting 30 seconds as the ball is bounced 30 times by the server before the grinding starts all over.
There were no such antics in Kyrgios’ victory. Instead we got aces, thumping winners and moments of pure talent. This shot in particular is doing the rounds, being hailed as one of the hot shots of the year.
Kyrgios, with shots like these, has given sports fans something to marvel at, and with his modern look of tram-lined hair and tattoos, something great to look at. And not only that, he is also worth paying attention to when he opens his mouth.
5. He is a real sweetie.
While he may have been accused of being cocky and arrogant on court in his presser, he is nothing like that post match. The teen talks of how his mum drove him on when she said Nadal was too good for him to beat (it made me angry, he said), how he does not know what to say about his wins and how much he loves his fans. He is also a real pro, polite and never short of a smile.
Kyrgios’s victory over Nadal is great for tennis. It’s been a long time coming, let’s enjoy it while we can.
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