July 1, 2014 / 11:09 PM / 5 years ago

Kyrgios reminiscent of Sampras, says Woodbridge

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Todd Woodbridge described fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios’s stunning victory over world No.1 Rafael Nadal on Tuesday as one of the best performances he has ever seen from a teenager.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia reacts to defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain in their men's singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The 19-year-old wildcard continued his dream Wimbledon debut at the All England Club by overpowering the 14-times grand slam champion 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3 to book his place in the quarter-finals.

“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in my 30 years in tennis from a teenager,” Woodbridge, who made the singles semi-finals in 1997 and formed one of the world’s greatest doubles partnerships with Mark Woodforde, told Reuters minutes after watching the Center Court thriller.

Kyrgios, a former junior world No.1, has an eye-catching, attacking style that is already drawing comparisons with some of the world’s greats.

Three-times Wimbledon winner John McEnroe has likened the athletic Australian upstart to Boris Becker, while Woodbridge believes there are similarities with a young Pete Sampras - the man who ended his run in 1997.

“For me it’s a bit like a Pete Sampras when he first made his mark,” he said. “We all knew he was good then but he went bang at the U.S. Open and won the tournament (as a 19-year-old).

“I think we are a long way from winning the tournament but it’s a long time since we’ve seen some one do what he’s doing. I think back to when a young Rafa burst on to the scene as a teenager, that’s what it’s like.”

When Kyrgios served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set, many would have expected some nerves.

Instead he belted some hefty baseline winners and crunched down his 37th ace to send the twice champion packing.

“He has always been a great closer... he’s always had the ability to play a big shot and come up with the goods when it counted and he’s never been scared of a situation,” Woodbridge, who won nine Wimbledon men’s doubles titles said.

“It’s extraordinary what he’s done today.

“I think all of us that have known Nick through his development knew he could play at this level but we didn’t know if he could play that well for that long to beat the number one player in the world. He’s surpassed all our expectations.

“He didn’t get nervous or uptight and he played some amazing stuff.”

The next test, Woodbridge said, is rising above the hype in Wednesday’s quarter-final against Canadian Milos Raonic.

“That’s the next challenge, he’s never dealt with that before and it’s going to be interesting to watch his progress over the next 24 hours.

“Physically and mentally he needs to come back from that today to play a guy who will give him no rhythm at all.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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