Meet The Next Big Thing In Australian Tennis: Teenage Sensation Nick Kyrgios

Rising star Nick Kyrgios pumps himself up during his second round match against Benoit Paire at the Australian Open. Photo Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

At around 1.30am last night, after three hours and 20 minutes of gruelling, five-set tennis, Australian fans sat watching with pride, tears in their eyes and awe as a teenage boy from Canberra hobbled to defeat. But they also knew they were watching a future Grand Slam champion.

Nick Kyrgios played an extraordinary match before his young body betrayed him, cramping up until he could barely walk. He lost to Frenchman Beniot Paire, 6-7 6-7 6-4 6-2 6-2.

But even in agony, Kyrgios refused to surrender. He was Mel Gibson in Braveheart, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine fighting The Silver Samurai.
His pluck and pride were inspirational, his never-say-die spirit the thing tennis fans have craved since the days when Lleyton Hewitt was screaming “C’mon!!!!” at his peak.

At midnight on a heat-delayed day at the Australian Open, this wildcard entry, 168 on the ATP ranking (but No. 1 on ITF junior), found himself two sets up on the highly fancied 28th seed. He’d been playing like a champion, serving 200kmh-plus thunderbolts, pulling off screaming passing shots when the stakes were at their highest. Kyrgios bristled with confidence and determination. A mesmerised, insomniac nation was watching a new Australian tennis legend being forged in front of them.

Nick Kyrgios in full flight against Benoit Paire. Photo Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Here was the player Tomic never seemed bothered enough to get around to being.
Fans have been waiting for more than a decade to see this fight, this swagger, this relentlessness, this talent realised, in the next generation.

Nicholas Kyrgios was born in Canberra to a Greek father and Malaysian mother. At 1.93m (6’4″) he’s a pretty decent basketball player too. He won his first ITF junior tour title in 2010, aged just 15 and last year, won the boys singles title at Australian Open and boys doubles at Wimbledon. His sporting idols are Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, LeBron James and Michael Jordon. He turns 19 in April and late last year, fought his way onto the Davis Cup team.

The Fanatics gave the Australian teenager plenty of support, to the chagrin of Beniot Paire. Photo Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

On Margaret Court Arena last night, backed by a vocal crowd including a strong contingent of the “Fanatics” Kyrgios had his chances. He was a break up in the third set and looked set to pull off a stunning upset when things suddenly went awry and it was 4-4.

TV commentator Jim Courier noticed a change in Kyrgios and mused that the grunts with his shots were no longer from aggression but exhaustion. He picked that the teenager was in trouble from cramping, something the former champion has bitter experience of.
His advice to Kyrgios was to concede points and give himself a chance to recover. Kyrgios didn’t, he kept fighting, no matter how badly the odds seemed stacked against him, chasing down the ball as if his mind could will his body to defy its crippling pain. The power in his shots is breathtaking.

The pain of his first 3-hour, five-set match sets in for Nick Kyrgios. Photo Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

There was a time violation warning from the umpire as Kyrgios struggled to corral his fatigue to serve. Other players would have called the trainer or taken a toilet break to buy time. Kyrgios was stoic and would have none of it, his bravery was beyond gutsy.

It was painful to watch too, a tragic end to a fairytale, yet still he summoned reserves to smash the occasional winner as Paire rolled over the top and took it up to the highly partisan crowd too.

It looked like the final set would be a whitewash, Kyrgios came out and served a love-game. He went down swinging, giving his homeland hope for the future of Australian men’s tennis.

“I honestly started feeling it halfway through the third set. I always was going to feel it sometime through that match,” Kyrgios said, post-match. “It was a really fun night. It motivates me to get out there again and have another shot.”

On Twitter, he thanked his fans – his followers doubled overnight to more than 12,000.

It was a great night for the future of Australian tennis, with another teenager, Thanasi Kokkinakis, losing in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 6-2, to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, but winning high praise from the champion, who said: “I really think he has a fantastic future. He has all the ingredients to be a top player.”

In the meantime, Nick Kyrgios will be back at the Australian Open in the days ahead in the mixed doubles.

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