British number one Kyle Edmund is emerging from Andy Murray's shadow to take centre stage. Despite his recent loss to Alexander Zverev, the shy Yorkshire lad has had the best year of his career
Kyle Edmund has always been good at taking the long view. Unlike many of his rivals, who feel destroyed at a loss, Edmund is good at keeping things in perspective. So he will, no doubt, be bringing his usual sang froid to the defeat he suffered at the hands of Alexander Zverev in Shanghai this week, and see it as one more step in road.
The fair haired 23-year-old, whose mum still tells him off if he forgets the sunscreen, is now within touching distance of an appearance at the Nitto ATP Tour Finals. Currently lying 12th Edmund is just four places away from the top 8, after the most successful year of his career. At the Australian Open he made it to the semi finals (only the 6th Brit to do so in the Open Era), in March, he overtook Andy Murray to become British number one and he is now 14th in the world. At his age, it is an “exceptional” achievement, says his former coach, Greg Rusedski.
Edmund has benefited considerably from the generous guidance of his tennis hero, Andy Murray, who invited him several times to his former Florida training camp. Edmund then had to learn how to overcome the compliment and find a way to beat him. “Initially it didn’t come easily to me. You always want your tennis idols to win, but not when you’re playing them – so that was something I just had to learn." Edmund proved he had when he beat Andy Murray in the final of the Tie Break Tens in London in 2015.
Now, especially after his impressive performance at the Laver Cup, Edmund is rubbing shoulders with tennis's international elite. It was, he said, the first time he had got to know Roger Federer and although they didn't talk much about tennis, he does now know how Federer (who was like Edmund born in South Africa) has his steak (medium to well done).
Edmund, who grew up in Yorkshire and now lives in the Bahamas, is one of the quiet stars of professional tennis. His first coach, Richard Plews remembers him as a shy 8 year old. "Kyle had friends, in fact he was a popular lad, but I wouldn’t say he was outgoing. I just remember this laser-beam focus and what an absolute cannon his forehand was. From the first session, you could see he had real ball-striking ability but no technique, which is an unusual combination."
Edmund is now being talked about as a top ten contender. Pat Cash wants to see a 15-20% improvement in his game; Rusedski says it’s a matter of consistency. Certainly in his forehand, Edmund has one of the key weapons to succeed. As the British player Luke Bambridge tweeted in January about childhood fears, his was "Kyle Edmund’s forehand.” After the year Edmund's had, Bambridge will not be the only one to worry.