As Pat Cash watched Nick Kyrgios upstage Rafael Nadal on the world's most famous court on Tuesday, the 1987 Wimbledon champion was reminded of a long-ago match at faraway Melbourne Park.
He remembered a rainy Saturday night under the roof on Rod Laver Arena. It was 1996, as another Australian teenager, Mark Philippoussis, stunned another world No.1, Pete Sampras, in three sets to reach the fourth round.
The last Australian to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final was Bernard Tomic, as a precocious 18-year-old in 2013. But Cash believes the last Australian performance comparable to the one produced by Kyrgios in terms of its sheer audacity, power and the absence of big-performance nerves came from a young Philippoussis.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios celebrates defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain. Photo: AP
“He blew everybody away, and everybody was in shock from that one, said ‘a star is born’, and he pretty much was,’’ Cash said. “And it’s the case here as well.
“That’s what it reminded me of, where (Kyrgios) just didn’t go away - he kept going for the shots and kept coming up with the goods. It was extremely impressive. It was amazing. It was almost faultless.’’
There was no end to the praise for Kyrgios. John McEnroe harking back to Boris Becker storming the All England Club for the first of his three singles titles as a 17-year-old in 1985.
Mark Philippoussis celebrates his upset win over Pete Sampras 6-4, 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3). Photo: Getty Images
“I keep saying ‘who’s the next guy?’ and I think that we’ve found that guy,’’ said John McEnroe on the BBC. “How did he keep that up?
“He’s got to play tomorrow, but let him enjoy this for a couple of hours. This is when it gets a little bit tricky.
“But he absolutely believed that he was going to win this match, and he’s looking to me like he can win this tournament.’’
20 Jan 1996: Mark Philippoussis celebrates after winning a point against Pete Sampras in the third round of the Australian Open. Photo: Getty Images
Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle believed the effort was confirmation of what those in Australian tennis already knew. “It’s an amazing effort but, as you know, I’ve always felt he’s been that good,’’ he said.
“I’m surprised he won, pleasantly surprised, but I still think he had that in him. He’s just damn good. There’s just no other way to describe it. He’s one of those few people he’s got those real champion qualities, that has the ability to walk onto the centre court for the first time and win against the world No.1. That’s just unbelievable. He’s just that good.’’
"That was the most extraordinary tennis I've seen from a teenager maybe since the likes of Pete Sampras when he kind-of made his statement on tour,’’ said Todd Woodbridge. "I truly thought Nick could win a set, I didn’t think he could win today, but what he did that stood out was raise to a level and played at an intensity for three hours that I didn’t think he could do - to play that well for that long.
“He made what was probably three bad mistakes, three volleys when he had an open court to hit to. Other than that he played at a level that I don’t think we thought he could play at just yet.
“You've got to love the ability to come and serve out a match like that. That's really hard to do. That's a rarity in this sport and a rarity amongst youmg players… and there was a maturity about the way he played the defied the amount of tennis he's played.’’
In the players’ box were Krygios' sister, Halimah, and father, George, Halimah in tears after having a front row seat to the best performance of her brother’s life.
“I’ve got a headache. It was a lot of stress but we love watching him. It's such a great achievement.’’
There was also a clue as to where the extroverted, youngest Kyrgios first developed his showman tendencies.
"Because I’m into theatre he was forced to watch all my dance concerts and musical theatre and stuff,’’ Halimah said.
“He's always been a bit of a joker but he loves the crowd.
"I think think that's one of the way that helped him win. The support, he loves it.’’
How the Aussies fared on Wimbledon Day 8
Men’s singles, 4th round
Nick Kyrgios bt 1-Rafael Nadal (ESP), 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3
Men’s doubles, 3rd round
Lleyton Hewitt/Chris Guccione lost to 9-Julian Knowle/Marcelo Melo (BRA), 6-3 6-7 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3
14-John Peers/Jamie Murray (GBR) lost to 2-Alexander Peya (AUT)/Bruno Soares (BRA) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3
Women’s doubles, 3rd round
6-Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua (AUS) bt 12-Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP)/Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ), 7-6 (7-4) 6-0
Samantha Stosur/Flavia Pennetta trail Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)/Lucie Safarova (CZE), 1-6 4-4 - to resume
Mixed doubles, 2nd round
Chris Guccione/Oksana Kalashnikova (GEO) bt 1-Mike Bryan (USA)/Katarina Srebotnik (SLO), 2-6 6-4 6-3
Anastasia Rodionova/Mikhail Elgin (RUS) bt 11-Juan-Sebastian Cabal (COL)/Raquel Kops-Jones (USA), 6-2 7-5
15-Samantha Stosur/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) bt Martin Emmrich (GER)/Michaella Krajicek (NED), 6-1 6-2
Boys’ singles, 2nd round
Harry Bourchier lost to Tim Van Rijthoven (NED), 6-4 7-6 (9-7)
Boys’ singles, 1st round
Omar Jasika lost to 8-Johan Sebastien Tatlot (FRA), 7-5 4-6 12-10
Girls’ singles, 1st round
16-Naiktha Bains lost to Greetje Minnen (BEL), 6-3 6-4
Kimberly Birrell bt Helen Ploskina (UKR), 2-6 7-5 6-3
Seone Mendez bt Holly Hutchinson (GBR), 6-3 2-6 8-6