Nick Kyrgios believes he can “go close” to winning Wimbledon after delivering a tennis masterclass to surge into the last 16 at the All England Club.
Kyrgios’s fire trumped Milos Raonic’s ice on Thursday as the Australian tennis showman turned up the heat to blast his way past the seventh seed 5-7 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in a high-quality third-round encounter on Friday.
Kyrgios out-aced the game’s most explosive server – and coolest competitor – 34 to 18 and mixed 61 clean winners with just 13 unforced errors in a sublime performance on Show Court Two.
His sweet revenge after falling to the Canadian in an equally competitive four-set quarter-final last year earned Kyrgios a return stoush on Monday with 21st seed Richard Gasquet.
It was against the French in last year’s second round that Kyrgios announced his arrival as a grand slam force when he saved a record nine match points before gunning down Rafael Nadal in round four.
Now Gasquet – who clubbed last year’s semi-finalist and 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-4 6-4 – again stands in his way after Kyrgios produced some magical and, at times insane, to send Raonic packing.
“I don’t fear anyone,” Kyrgios said.
“I definitely feel I’m playing better tennis than last year. Whoever I play I’m going to have the same mindset.”
Asked if he could go all the way and become Australia’s first champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002, Kyrgios said: “Yeah, I think if I play the right style of tennis, obviously if I’m serving well, feeling good out there, I think I can go close”.
“I have a tough task ahead. Gasquet is playing some really good tennis. Beating Dimitrov in straight is not an easy task on the grass.”
After dropping the opening set with two double-faults in the 12th game, Kyrgios looked in serious trouble down break point serving at 2-3 in the second set.
But he responded in style with a trio of huge aces, including one 200kph untouchable second serve to hold for 3-3 before celebrating with a mighty roar.
The tension reliever seemed to spark the youngster as he began to produce his best tennis of the match.
He conjured three break points with some spellbinding play, including a ridiculous running backhand crosscourt flick past Raonic in the ninth game.
But pushing the boundaries, Kyrgios received a code of conduct warning from chair umpire Manuel Messina after bouncing his racquet into the crowd.
Enforcing the All England Club’s all-white dress code, which even cleanskin Roger Federer has dubbed too strict, the Italian official also asked Kyrgios to remove his Wimbledon-coloured and issued headband.
But unlike in his first two matches, when he clashed with umpires, Kyrgios kept his cool and simply turned it inside out.
He finally broke for 6-5 with a semi-framed forehand winner that caught the baseline and, no letting up, Kyrgios tied the match up in the most spectacular of fashion, cracking four successive aces to hold to love.
He sustained the assault in another tight set and recovered from 2-0 down in the tiebreaker to clinch the third set with his 26th ace.
Serving second in the fourth set, Raonic was always under the pump and cracked with a double-fault and then a backhand wide to hand Kyrgios the chance to close out the match at 5-3.
He made no mistake and wrapped up the match after two hours and 42 minutes.
While Kyrgios marched on, Samantha Stosur crashed out of the women’s event, losing 12 straight games in a 6-2 6-0 collapse against big-hitting American Coco Vandeweghe.