It's been easy to forget about Wimbledon in this country over the past week. Especially with our United States soccer team performing so much better in the World Cup than our Red, White and Blue tennis players did at the All-England Club.
After all, not since 1911 had zero U.S. men or women reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, according to the International Tennis Federation. Yet that's just what happened this year, all 13 American women and 10 U.S. men vanquished by the close of the third round. (At least only three U.S. men and no women entered the 1911 tournament.)
But with our futbol guys now gone from the Cup, Tuesday did provide a reason to pay much closer attention to the rest of this Wimbledon, if only for the male player who won't rough up the grass courts for the rest of the fortnight. World No. 1 Rafa Nadal shockingly fell to world No. 144 Nick Kyrgios, a 19-year-old Australian with a big-bang serve and similar groundstrokes.
Kyrgios didn't just deliver the most stunning result of this Wimbledon -- though some justifiably would argue that Serena Williams falling to Alize Cornet was similarly surprising -- he did it by winning it more than Nadal lost it, a statement less easy to make regarding Serena's defeat.
The youngest player in the tournament after earning a wild-card spot, Kyrgios served 37 aces and repeatedly pinned Nadal deep with piercing forehands and backhands that seemed almost always to find the baseline and sidelines without completely clearing them.
"That's happens when you have nothing to lose," Nadal said afterward. "You can play that way. [Young players] can play with no pressure. They are fresh."
The 6-foot-4 Kyrgios would appear to have all the trappings needed to become a fresh talent on the men's tour. He even arrived at Tuesday's big moment with a humorous story involving his mother, who remained in Australia, at least partly because she grows too nervous during matches to watch.
It seems that Noraila Kyrgios told a reporter back home that she expected Nadal to win.
Said her son after the match: "She thought he was too good. It made me angry. You've got to believe you can win the match from the start."
This loss makes it more difficult to believe Nadal ever will add to the two Wimbledon crowns he claimed in 2008 and 2010. His last three losses at his sport's most storied address have come to players ranked 100 or higher, each one worse (by ranking) than the one before.
Of equal concern is that the first two of those defeats, to Lukas Rosol in 2012 and Steve Darcis last year, came against players who failed to advance past the next round of play. Playing as he did Tuesday, Kyrgios could buck that trend. He might even the reach the final against the expected semifinal winner between Novak Djokovic and defending champ Andy Murray.
But he must face Canadian Milos Raonic in today's quarterfinals, which isn't much of turnaround time to put the biggest win of your infant career behind you.
And should seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer defeat Swiss countryman and close friend Stan Wawrinka in their quarterfinal match, Kyrgios would appear to have the outrageous hitting power to upset Fed, much as such big hitters Tomas Berdych, Nadal and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in previous Wimbledons.
A single quote from Nadal concerning Kyrgios's power: "The thing is on this surface, when you have an opponent that decides to serve and to hit every ball very strong, you are in trouble."
And Fed might be from here on out. But all things being equal, Nadal's loss is likely Federer's gain as he once more attempts to become the first eight-time winner in Wimbledon history.
ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe picked Federer to win before the tournament began, and with a potentially grueling semifinal match against Nadal now removed, he would appear to have at least a 50-50 chance of beating what should be a worn-down Djokovic-Murray winner in Sunday's final.
Said Fed after his easy dismantling of Tommy Robredo in Tuesday's fourth round: "It's kind of nice the way I'm playing. I'm serving well, moving well, returning all right, so all the things are happening that need to be happening ... but then again you're only in the quarterfinals and that's when the tournament kind of really starts."
Unless you're Rafa Nadal each of the last three summers.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...