Nick Kyrgios is in new grand slam territory, having earned his place in the Wimbledon third round in extraordinary circumstances. It was easily the biggest career win for the Australian teenager, although there was nothing easy about it, Kyrgios forced to recover from a two-set deficit against 13th seed Richard Gasquet and to save nine match points.
The first three came at 4-5 in the fifth set, and the others in the next three service games, one of them salvaged by a Hawk-eye challenge on what had been called a double-fault. But whenever elimination threatened, the 19-year-old found a way to survive it, finally breaking serve himself in the 17th game and serving out the match 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 in just under four hours to earn a standing ovation on a packed court two.
Kyrgios has won a round in three of his five main draw grand slam appearances, but never - until this time - more than one. The youngest player in the men's draw was the second-last Australian; as Lleyton Hewitt prepares to depart, he is arriving. And just might have. Just now.
The highest-ranked player Kyrgios had previously beaten was No.51 Radek Stepanek on debut in a major at Roland Garros last year. Gasquet has been as high as seventh, and is still among the game's elite. The Frenchman served exceptionally for most of the match, but was able to convert just two of his 16 break point chances, slightly tentative at some key moments, but repelled again and again.
"It's definitely the biggest win of my career so far,'' said Kyrgios, who will now play Czech wildcard Jiri Vesely, a five-set winner over Gael Monfils. Next could be world No.1 Rafael Nadal a four-set winner against his 2012 conqueror Lukas Rosol on centre court.
"I'm stoked and I'm just happy to get through again. Well done to Richard, as well. It was an unbelievable match.''
But one that started almost unremarkably. The Kyrgios way is to hit out boldly, and so he did against Gasquet, whose defence was so outstanding that it prompted a slightly nervous Kyrgios to go for even more. Then again, Kyrgios was not going to win an attritional baseline war with the experienced Frenchman, who was winning grasscourt titles when Kyrgios was a primary school student back in Canberra, shooting hoops at least as often as he was hitting tennis balls.
Kyrgios was regularly pulled out of position by the Gasquet groundstrokes, and at 2-5 in the first set called for a trainer to treat and remove the kinesiotape from his left knee. He is an explosive athlete, but still a maturing one, and Gasquet had him well covered, in most respects.
The foundation of the Kyrgios game is his serve, but while that proved to be shaky at times, the world No.144 could make no early impression on Gasquet's, his first break point taking more than one hour to arrive. The pair's only previous match had been on clay in February's Davis Cup tie, when the first set went to a tiebreak, before Gasquet dominated the next two.
This time, Kyrgios lost the first seven points, and then his opening service game on a double fault as he attempted a brave/ambitious second serve. The next break came in the third game of the second set when a backhand volley sailed long and Kyrgios belted a ball out of the stands in disgust, earning a code violation warning from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani.
But from 3-5 down, Kyrgios won consecutive games for the first time, breaking back for 5-5 with the help of a Gasquet double-fault at deuce. At this early stage of his tour-level career, he had already compiled an impressive 9-5 record in tiebreaks - three of them coming in his grand slam debut 13 months ago at Roland Garros against Radek Stepanek - but he always trailed in this one, Gasquet showcasing all his skills on both attack and defence.
Still, the match had tightened up, and Kyrgios got his reward by taking the third in 36 minutes, his 17th and last winner a nice wrong-footing forehand down the line. The former world No.1 junior has touch as well as power, drop-shotting handily at times, using deft angles at others.
The other factor is his body, which has already proved to be worryingly injury-prone, an elbow issue responsible for his most recent two-month stretch on the sidelines. Cramps cost Kyrgios dearly at the Australian Open, when he had led another Frenchman, Benoit Paire, by two sets to love. On a different surface and in far different circumstances fitness was not an issue this time.
He was two points from defeat at 4-5 in the fourth set, before an unexpected break in the 11th game, then saved two break-back points to force a fifth set. There, the drama continued, was magnified exponentially, with Kyrgios under extreme pressure on serve, yet somehow holding on.
Despite the rankings and results disparity, the teen had been given some chance going into the match, the theory being that Gasquet had trailed another, lesser, Australian - James Duckworth - by two-sets-to-one before winning in five in the opening round. And given that Kyrgios is an emerging superstar, and had just won a Challenger title on grass then, well, game on.
And, as it turned out, on, and on. "I came up with some clutch serving, that's my main weapon, it's what got me here,'' said Kyrgios. Count on him staying. A towering talent is now something more.