LONDON — Rafael Nadal ran out of comebacks at Wimbledon, losing to a brash, big-serving, between-the-legs-hitting 19-year-old kid who might just be a future star.
Maria Sharapova, somehow, seemed on the verge of a turnaround despite a flurry of unforced errors, saving six match points before finally succumbing on the seventh with – what else? – a missed shot.
Tuesday was chock-full of significant events, and the most noteworthy winner had to be 144th-ranked Nick Kyrgios, who used 37 aces and a have-no-fear approach to beat Nadal 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 for a quarterfinal berth.
“I was in a bit of a zone out there,” said Kyrgios, the lowest-ranked player to beat the No. 1 man at any Grand Slam tournament in 22 years. “I’m playing some unbelievable tennis on the grass.”
That’s for sure. Playing in only his fifth major tournament – he got into the field thanks to a wild-card invitation – Kyrgios is the first man to reach the quarterfinals in his Wimbledon debut in 10 years.
“We keep saying, ‘Who’s the next guy?’ And I think we may have found him,” seven-time major champion John McEnroe said on the BBC broadcast.
For Nadal, who won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, it was yet another early exit at the grass-court tournament against a much-lower-ranked opponent. In 2012, he lost in the second round against No. 100 Lukas Rosol. Last year, he was beaten in the first round by No. 135 Steve Darcis.
“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,” Nadal said.
No. 9 Angelique Kerber edged Sharapova 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4. Sharapova made 49 unforced errors, 38 more than Kerber. Still, the 2004 champ saved one match point at 5-2 in the final set, then five more at 5-4, before pushing a backhand long to end it.
“I felt like I worked too hard within the match to let it go the easy way. So I did everything I could in the end to try to save those,” Sharapova said. “I did, but I didn’t save the last one.”