Kyle Edmunds' ranking challenge

February 9, 2018

With Andy Murray absent, many British tennis fans were feeling gloomy about the Australian Open, and even more so when Johanna Konta suffered an early exit. 

Although fans might have consoled themselves that Konta will have plenty of chances to challenge strongly for Grand Slams, and Murray declared his hip operation a success, it was ultimately Kyle Edmund who lifted the mood. 

The 23-year-old's run to the semi-finals made him only the sixth British man to reach the last four of a Grand Slam in the Open Era. Given that players now tend to peak in their late 20s, a consistent improvement would surely propel him not only to more semi-finals, but perhaps all the way to glory. Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Championships, Wimbledon will be watching his progress with great interest.

It may be asking a bit much for Edmund to win a Grand Slam in 2018, particularly with the evergreen Roger Federer playing so well and Rafael Nadal gearing up for a likely 11th French Open. After all, many judges believe Edmund's best surface is clay, where his mammoth forehand is such a potent weapon. 

However, what he can do is push his ranking higher, making sure he is seeded for the biggest tournaments and therefore less likely to be drawn into long matches with top players early on. While Grand Slams have had 32 ranked players in recent years, this was cut to 16 at the Australian Open. 

Edmund went to Melbourne ranked 49 in the world, but his run ensured that not only would he pass his previous career best of 40 in 2016, but propel him into the top 30. Now 26th, he currently has 1,667 ranking points, while 20th-placed Andy Murray has 1,960. Not only does that mean the players just above Edmund are vulnerable to a continued run of good form by the Briton, but Murray is in great danger of being usurped as British number one long before he can get back into competitive action. 

What will help him climb swiftly is a run to the latter stages of any of the upcoming tournaments, of which two - Miami and Indian Wells - are ATP 1000 events. Last year saw Edmund lose in the first round in Acapulco, the second round at Indian Wells - against Novak Djokovic - and the opening round in Miami. And when the clay court season began, the ATP 1000 tournament in Monaco saw him beat fellow Briton Dan Evans but face the irresistible challenge of Nadal in round two.   

Since by definition only a handful of players can reach the latter stages of a tournament, there is clearly plenty of low-hanging fruit on offer as Edmund seeks to climb into the top 20. 

Indeed, success in an ATP 1000 event could push him higher still. Only the top ten are more than 1,000 points ahead.

Of course, it is important for the player not to run before he can walk. Thrilling as his run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park was, Edmund is yet to win an ATP tour title. If he can do that this year and push near the top ten, Britain will have high hopes that its next male Grand Slam winner is coming of age. 

Image: Getty Images for LTA from Keith Prowse subscription

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