January 23, 2018
Kyle Edmund seems to have turned British tennis on its head in the space of a few remarkable days.
Can he take two more steps and actually win the Australian Open against all odds?
After Rafael Nadal had to retire with a hip injury early in the final set against Marin Cilic, it seems that anything is possible.
Edmund’s stunning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov in their quarter-final has certainly woken the world to his potential.
And his success has excited British tennis fans back home in a way only Andy Murray has been able to do in recent years.
The changing landscape has also given those same fans a potential dilemma.
Who to support at Wimbledon 2018? Englishman Edmund or elder statesman Murray?
The sensational events in Australia – combined with Murray’s determination to be back for Wimbledon – means we could enjoy a July like no other.
‘Now I know what it must have felt like to be Andy Murray for the last eight years,’ smiled the South African-born Yorkshireman, sensing the clamour for his attention after his superb four-set demolition of Dimitrov.
Carry on like this, and Kyle might just know what it’s like to be Andy Murray for the next eight years, too!
On the mounting media attention, he shrugged his shoulders and raised another laugh in Melbourne by declaring: ‘It’s a nice problem to have.’
And it’s a nice problem for British tennis fans to have, too, as they start to consider who they would back if Edmund faced Murray at the All England Club this summer.
Murray, watching from back home, saw what his friend did to Dimitrov and tweeted: “Wow.”
That said it all, really. Andy must know he now has a genuine rival for the right to be called British top dog.
Kyle Edmund isn’t quite the subtle athlete Murray can be – not just yet. But he is moving in the right direction, constantly finding new ways to compliment his natural power.
Big, booming, looping forehands. Timely aces – thirteen of them. The aggression is there for all to see, but it is controlled so much better now. Variation has been added, too. Edmund is improving in every department of his game.
The tutelage of Fredrik Rosengren has much to do with it. The passionate Swedish coach wants Edmund to show his emotions out on court. Enjoy his tennis. Pump his fist if it comes from the heart. And everything Edmund did against Dimitrov seemed heartfelt.
Together, player and coach have focused on power selection too. Gone is the one-dimensional, hit-everything-as-hard-as-you-can youngster. Replacing him is a calmer 23-year-old, who thinks more carefully and knows how to construct a point before he unleashes the missile.
Above all, there is the mental strength. Whisper it softly, but young Kyle may already be stronger in the head than Murray.
He’s not perfect, of course. A double fault while serving for the match showed a few understandable nerves. But his temperament overall is superb – better than Murray’s at the same age.
When Hawkeye went crazy in the final game and signalled “in” before rightly ruling a Dimitrov shot “out,” Kyle just smiled. His reach for the big-time was being delayed by faulty technology. But did he throw his toys out of the pram? No. He just grinned.
Here is a man who is enjoying every moment of his time in the limelight. And why not? He was supposed to be on the plane home after the first round, where he faced US Open champion Kevin Anderson.
Now look at him! In the semi-final, his ranking starting to soar, the world learning all about him…a realistic chance of making the final itself.
A Liverpool football fan, a petrol head, humble, humorous, popular…Britain has a new tennis hero. So how good is he?
Well, it should be said that Dimitrov wasn’t at his best. He didn’t find anything like the level of tennis he had summoned to win the ATP Tour Finals at the end of last year.
But then again Edmund had something to do with that. Kyle didn’t let his rival thrive for long enough to take command. And the underdog undoubtedly deserved the result, looking better from the start.
As he pointed out, his second break, towards the end of the first set, was extremely timely and paved the way to glory.
Dimitrov bossed the next set, getting off to a flyer at 3-0. But Edmund refused to be intimidated by the comeback, or to entertain the thought that the so-called natural order was about to be restored.
Instead Kyle confidently claimed the two sets he needed, finding the angles and trajectories he needed to make his power count in a confined area.
There was drama to the last. Whether or not Edmund had sealed victory was left to Hawkeye. Had Dimitrov hit too long? ‘I prayed that last ball was out,’ Kyle said.
Indeed it was. And suddenly the Brits had an Australian Open semi-finalist other than Murray – for the first time since John Lloyd in 1977.
Besides Lloyd and Murray, only Roger Taylor, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski have reached Grand Slam semi-finals among the open era Brits. So Edmund has just joined a select group.
Can he go much further? Ordinarily you might have doubted it, but there will be no Rafael Nadal waiting on the other side of the net.
Cilic, of course, will also provide a very tough test, having reached the Wimbledon final last summer.
And he did superbly to stay in the match against Nadal long enough to win through 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 2-0…at which point a valiant Nadal retired due to that troublesome hip.
If Edmund can gain a foothold against Cilic, it is not impossible that he might be able to ride the wave of this unlikely Australian Open experience all the way to the final.
As underdog, what does Kyle have to lose? He is already a massive winner at the Australian Open. Anything else would be an amazing bonus.
Back in Britain, everyone is thrilled. And we just can’t wait for Wimbledon 2018 now…not with the likelihood of two male British tennis heroes to choose from…both genuine contenders for the title.
Wimbledon 2018 could be very special indeed.