It didn’t take long in his tennis career for Nick Kyrgios to prove he was a man for the big stages. In his very first Wimbledon in 2014, the Aussie wild card saved nine match points to upset Richard Gasquet before pulling off an ever bigger shock in his Centre Court debut.
In his first meeting with Rafael Nadal — the World No. 1 at the time — Kyrgios powered to a 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 fourth-round victory that truly marked his arrival at the game’s highest level. As No. 144 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, he became the first man in 10 years to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals on his tournament debut, a result that earned him his breakthrough into the Top 100 at the age of 19.
In the first episode of the Netflix docuseries Break Point, Kyrgios gave his perspective on that inflection point in his career.
Kyrgios’ longtime friend and current manager, Daniel Horsfall, also recalled the enormity of that result in an interview with ATPTour.com. After closely following the early stages of the Australian’s career, Horsfall witnessed his friend become a superstar in front of his own eyes.
“Everything really changed when he beat Nadal at Wimbledon and made the quarter-finals,” he reflected. “I still remember when he came home after playing, there were maybe 60, 70 people at the airport in Canberra to welcome him home. And then we came to his house, which is where we always stayed. We used to have sleepovers every day. There were reporters that were camped outside for like three, four days just waiting to see Nick. They would follow us around everywhere like crazy paparazzi.
“It was the most wild experience of my life. I guess that’s where it all started for him, in terms of being in that public limelight. Obviously it’s had its ups and downs, that’s for sure. But I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was crazy.”
Against Nadal, Kyrgios boldly introduced himself to the sports world at large with his brash brand of tennis — a booming serve, powerful baseline hitting and deceptively silky touch, all mixed in with the unique style and panache that have come to define the man. Always a showman, Kyrgios flummoxed Nadal with a barrage of winners, none more impressive than his forward-facing tweener, after which he basked in the crowd’s cheers.
After relying on his serve to win two sets in tie-breaks, Kyrgios earned his first break of the match in the fourth set and ultimately closed out the famous victory in just under four hours. He has since gone on to beat Nadal twice more — in Cincinnati (2017) and Acapulco (2019) — with the Spaniard currently leading their ATP Head2Head series 6-3.
At Wimbledon in 2014, Kyrgios would ultimately fall to Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals despite taking the opening set. But the tools he used to produce that seismic result against Nadal were on full display again last year at the same venue: In the standout tournament of a resurgent year for the 27-year-old, Kyrgios reached his first Grand Slam final at the All England Club before a hard-fought defeat to Novak Djokovic.
If he can carry his 2022 form into the new season — following a year in which he also reached the US Open quarters and won his seventh ATP Tour title in Washington, D.C. — we may soon see Kyrgios go all the way at a major.