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To have a clear physical insight into the nanocrystal formation upon pulsed-laser ablation in liquid, we proposed a theoretical kinetic approach to elucidate the nucleation and growth of nanocrystals with respect to the capillary effect of the nanometer-sized curvature of crystalline nuclei. Taking the nanodiamond synthesis by pulsed-laser ablating a graphite target in water as an example, we predicted the nucleation time, growth velocity, and the grown size of nanodiamonds on the basis of the proposed kinetic model, and found that these theoretical results are in well agreement with our experiment cases. We expected that the kinetic approach is generally applicable to understanding the basic physics of nanocrystal formation in pulsed-laser ablation in liquid.