NEWS

Kyle Edmund makes British tennis history

January 23, 2018

For British tennis fans, it seemed last week that the Australian Open was going to provide a disappointing start to the year. Andy Murray missed the tournament after undergoing surgery to tackle his ongoing hip problem, Johanna Konta exited early and Jamie Murray and his doubles partner Bruno Soares also headed for the airport sooner than expected.

However, Kyle Edmund has changed all that. Having already made a superb start by beating US Open finalist Kevin Anderson in the opening round, he has kept up his form, ensuring he will not only improve on his current world ranking of 49, but top his career best of 40. Indeed, he should soon oust Andy Murray as the British number one.  

When he reached the quarter finals Edmund had put himself in rare company. Other than Andy Murray, no Briton had reached the last eight in Australia since the days of John Lloyd in 1985, when the tournament was still played on grass. 

However, the Johannesburg-born Yorkshireman has now gone a step further. His superb 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over Grigor Dimitrov has set up a semi-final clash with Marin Cilic, who defeated Rafael Nadal during the evening session in a match that went into the fifth set before the world number one was forced to retire hurt.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Queen's Club Championships in June may recall that Dimitrov is a past winner of the tournament, a player whose talent has been obvious for years, and who is now the world number three after winning the ATP World Tour finals across London at the O2 arena in November. But the British number two was too good for him.

That Edmund should show few nerves and plenty of quality - his powerful forehand is proving a formidable weapon - should gladden the hearts of British fans. At the age of 23, he may now be making the step up to the kind of rarefied heights occupied by the very best players. 

A measure of Edmund's achievement is that he is one of only six British men to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in the open era. While Murray is the one Grand Slam winner from this period, Lloyd and Greg Rusedski each reached one final - Lloyd at Melbourne in 1977 and Rusedski in the 1997 US Open - while Tim Henman was a serial semi-finalist and Roger Taylor reached the last four at Wimbledon in 1973, albeit aided by a players' strike. 

Joining such elite company and receiving the sort of attention usually placed on Murray has not fazed Edmund at all. In his courtside interview, he remarked: "You just take it in your stride and embrace it."

So to the match with Cilic: the giant Croatian will be eyeing his third Grand Slam final after winning the 2014 US Open and then re-emerging as a major contender last year. He may have been aided by injuries to others, but it was his own blisters that hampered him in the final at the Championships, Wimbledon as Roger Federer cruised to victory. With the possibility of facing the Swiss legend in the final in Melbourne looming, Cilic will be immensely motivated. However, he will be facing a player who knows no fear - and harbours his own ambitions of becoming Britain's latest Grand Slam winner. 

Image: Paul Rovere/Getty from Keith Prowse subscription

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