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Brain Game: Kyrgios Powers Past Nadal

Wimbledon, Great Britain

Kyrgios© Getty ImagesNick Kyrgios won 36 straight points on his first serve against Rafael Nadal.

Brain Game author Craig O’Shannessy breaks down the big matches each day during The Championships.

There is no better place in the world to officially announce your arrival than Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Nineteen-year-old wild card Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, did just that on Tuesday, shocking World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 in a fearless result born of raw, power tennis.

Kyrgios, No. 144 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, bombed 37 aces, including a 118mph second serve on the third point of the match, to move through to the quarter-finals against No. 8 seed Milos Raonic on Court One tomorrow.

Matches like these are defining moments in the sport – watermarks that signal the rise of a new guard in the history of the game. There would be no easing into this match for 6’5” Australian – he fired a 127mph ace down the middle on the first point of the match and then had the audacity to hit the 118mph second serve ace to the same spot two points later. Kyrgios believed in his destiny and so would the Centre Court crowd just a handful of points into the encounter. Kyrgios would ultimately smash 70 winners for the match, allowing the World No. 1 just 44. He brought the farm on just about every shot he hit.

Kyrgios was only broken once for the match, at 5-6 in the second set, after winning a ridiculous 36 straight points on his first serve that lasted all the way to the middle of the second set. He was basically untouchable, only allowing Nadal to see three break points for the entire match. Kyrgios served 140 times for the match and 49% (68) were unreturned by one of the best returners in the game.

The match started at a frenetic pace with Kyrgios bombing seven aces in his opening three serve games in a jaw-dropping start. Nadal was trying to slow everything down while Krygios had his foot stuck hard on the accelerator.

The Aussie had 22 winners to Nadal’s 12 in the opening set, and no point was more important than winning a 17-shot rally to get the mini-break 2-0 in the first set tiebreak. It was a mature, patient rally that mixed spin, direction and power, ultimately forcing a Nadal backhand into the net. Kyrgios sprung to a 4-0 lead and won the tie-break 7-5 with a 122mph ace out wide – a perfect bookend to the ace blasted on the opening point.

At no stage in the match did Kyrgios falter or go away from his game plan. He had nothing to lose and a legacy to gain by attacking at will. He was certainly not afraid or overawed by the moment. His biggest test came when Nadal held set point in the third set for a two-sets-to-one lead with Kyrgios serving at 5-6, 30/40. But the Australian tightened his grip on the match with a 122mph bomb down the middle in Ad court that was unreturned. Crisis averted.

Kyrgios’s height and ultra-flat backhand completely negated Nadal’s heavy forehand spin through the Ad Court as the Aussie repeatedly won this critical baseline match-up that Nadal normally owns. Kyrgios notched 10 backhand winners for the match to Nadal’s two, winning all the important battles over the court.

Kyrgios also was the better returner for the match, hitting five return winners to Nadal’s zero. Kyrgios was quite often going deep into Nadal’s service games, returning 65% (87/134) of his returns for the match back into play while Nadal often struggled just to get a racquet on the Australian’s booming serve, only making 51% (72/140) back in the court.

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Federer Hunts The Short Ball
Federer, RobredoRoger Federer, seeded fourth, only lost five points on his first serve in three sets to cruise through to the quarter-finals with a commanding 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 23 seed Tommy Robredo.

Federer broke Robredo’s opening service game and raced to a 3-0, then 5-1 lead, building scoreboard pressure that effectively kept the Spaniard out of the match right out of the gate. Federer moved extremely well and was always looking to come forward on any ball that presented half a chance. Federer won 70% (29/41) of his net points, which was much higher than the 52% (38/70) he won ending the point at the baseline.

Another key element that Federer developed was serve and volley, winning 84% (16/19), including 100% in the opening two sets. An interesting analytic to keep examining for Federer as he moves through the draw is his first serve percentage to the Deuce and Ad Courts. Federer only made 43% (16/37) first serves to the Ad Court but a considerably higher 68% (26/38) to the Deuce.

The Swiss star won 88% on both sides, serving 19 times wide, two at the body and 21 down the T in both courts. On second serves, Federer hit 21 to the Ad Court with 17 of those going wide to Robredo’s backhand. He only hit 12 second serves in the Deuce Court with eight directed down the middle to the backhand. Federer will now face Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.

Brain GameCraig O'Shannessy uses extensive tagging, metrics and formulas to uncover the patterns and percentages behind the game. Read more at www.braingametennis.com.

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