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Can Kyle Edmund carry Murray's mantle?

January 16, 2018

The start of the Australian Open has produced plenty of drama already, and one of those at the heart of the action is a man who may just get some extra time in the spotlight this year.

Kyle Edmund has been one of the rising stars of British tennis in recent years, with the 23-year-old now at number 49 in the world. The big question is, with so many top players now peaking in their late 20s, is he destined to merely be a good top 50 player, or break into the ranks of genuine challengers for the big prizes?

As with Johanna Konta, Edmund will get more attention while Andy Murray is recovering from hip surgery. Unlike Konta, nobody will expect him to win a Grand Slam just yet, but solid progress will be expected, with fans sure to be especially keen to see him do well at the Championships, Wimbledon.

If ever there was a moment to raise expectations, it was his first round victory in Melbourne against Kevin Anderson, whose previous Grand Slam match had been the final of the US Open. His 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory was testament to the character of a young player who refused to cave in when his opponent had the advantage, even at a break down in the final set.

Of course, were Edmund to lose his second round tie against the world number 60 Denis Istomin, that fresh optimism would be quelled. Indeed, there are many players who have defeated big names in Grand Slams, only to slip back into relative obscurity after. After all, a whole succession of them have inflicted that kind of loss on Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in recent years.

However, Edmund didn't get the better of a Nadal hobbling around Centre Court with a bandaged knee after going all the way at Roland Garros; instead, he was confirming his talents against a player coming into his prime and keen to add to his first Grand Slam final.

Edmund's fans may be rather pleased about that, because 2017 represented a year of regression after an excellent 2016 in which he enjoyed wins over the likes of Roberto Bautista Agut, David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet and John Isner, the latter two on a run to the fourth round of the US Open. It was during this purple patch that he hit his career high ranking of 40.

A good run in Melbourne may take him above that, but the key to raising his level further will be consistency in defeating lesser-ranked players and also in producing a good showing when he does come up against one of the big guns.  

Like Kevin Anderson, Edmund was born in South Africa, but, having moved to Yorkshire at the age of three, he shares little else in common with his opponent. Indeed, it is the fact that he was part of the British camp that took home the 2015 Davis Cup and has shared winter training block in Miami with Andy Murray that matters most: he has rubbed shoulders with those who know how to land the biggest prizes in the sport.

The question now is: how much he can develop over the course of the year ahead?

Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty

 

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