Edmund success heralds new dawn for British tennis

It was perhaps inevitable it would end here.

After slaying Grigor Dimitrov, a second consecutive top-ten triumph was a tall order, but Kyle Edmund has finally thrown off the shackles of being Andy Murray’s friend.

His career trajectory has not been quite as spectacular as his British compatriot thus so far, but his progress in the last few years is cause for optimism.

To describe this as a changing of the guard may be straying into hyperbole, but if the condition of Murray’s hip fails to improve, Edmund will have to get used to being the headline act.

Going toe-to-toe with Cilic is no easy task, but the 23-year-old was holding his own in the early stages and had twice had the opportunity to break.

Those went begging and from there, the 2014 US Open champion took charge with a break in the sixth game.

Edmund barely had time to draw breath before Cilic sealed the set with a laser-sharp forehand into the corner. 

The Beverley-born player was receiving a tough lesson on one of the biggest stages in the sport and was beginning to be bothered by a groin problem, leading to a three-minute medical timeout.

Nevertheless, the underdog came out fighting in the second set and this passion spilled over in the fifth game.

A Cilic serve was called out by one of the line judges. The subsequent challenge showed the ball had dropped in, gifting the point to the Croatian.

Edmund was incensed, arguing with chair umpire John Blom that the call led to him dumping his forehand into the net.

It is a rule that needs urgent review, with a replayed point far more appropriate in the circumstances.

After turning his ire on the tournament referee, the man resembling a liquorice allsort flounced back to the baseline. 

The injustice certainly seemed to sharpen his mind, with a thunderous forehand skidding off the baseline shortly afterwards. The anger was palpable.

A tiebreak was the natural conclusion to a set in which both players had been exceptionally potent on their own serve.

Cilic’s big-game experience came to the fore again and a two-set lead was looking insurmountable for his plucky opponent.

The groin injury that reared its ugly head earlier on in the match was beginning to impede Edmund’s movement, as the match began to drift towards a disappointing denouement.

Cilic seems to be enjoying life under new coach Ivan Cinkus and he was really starting to find his range against an opponent who seemed to have accepted his fate.

A further break in the seventh game was the final nail in the coffin, with an Edmund error bringing an end to the match.

While the result was ultimately emphatic, there is no need to be downhearted from a British perspective.

This was a notable milestone for Edmund and, at 23, you would expect there is plenty more to come.

Cilic was modest in victory and is on course for a showdown with Roger Federer, who comfortably dismantled him in last year’s Wimbledon final.

Asked about Edmund’s physical condition, the World No.6 said: “I noticed in the third game of the third set, he let a couple of balls go.

“I saw that his movement was restricted so I was trying to move the ball around.”

There was a relaxed focus to Cilic’s game and although he has a massively inferior head-to-head record against Federer (8-1), his sole triumph came on a hard court at the US Open.

Edmund will only be looking up.

Murray’s career has been defined by an incredible consistency at Grand Slams and a relentless work ethic to maintain that level of excellence.

The fact that the Scot has invited the young charge to his training camp in Miami shows that he clearly has the appetite to succeed.

If Edmund continues to show the hunger and big-game composure that has characterised his Australian fortnight, accolades will surely follow sooner rather than later.

Featured image: Getty

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Roland Garros: Five men who could make the second week for the first time

With the second Grand Slam of the year about to begin, it seemed high time to look at some of the players who could break new ground at Roland Garros this year and possibly spring a few surprises along the way.

Alexander Zverev

Zverev

Zverev is in the form of his life and is destined to remain in the upper echelons of the game for many years to come. The rangy right-hander has enjoyed a breakthrough year on the Tour, but there were signs in 2016 that he would be one to watch, when he sewed the title in St. Petersburg last September, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final over three sets.

Since then, the German has gone from strength to strength, adding three more titles to his collection, two of which came on clay. His ability to raise his game against the world’s elite has been astonishing and was underlined when he outclassed Novak Djokovic to pick his most recent crown in Rome.

Zverev will face a very stiff first-round test in the form of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, but the 20-year-old has already shown on a number of occasions that he can overcome adversity.

Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov

Many who watched Dimitrov blitz Andy Murray in a clinical Wimbledon quarter-final performance in 2014 would have expected the Bulgarian to push on. It hasn’t quite transpired like that, but the 26-year-old is displaying his swashbuckling brand of tennis on a far more regular basis in 2017.

The recruitment of coach Dani Vallverdu, formerly part of Murray’s coaching set-up, was a major coup and the intensive work that took place in the off-season in Monte Carlo has paid dividends. Impressive victories over Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori led the former junior champion at the All England Club to the title in Brisbane and this was backed up with a memorable victory in Sofia.

His first encounter during the fortnight will be against the experienced Frenchman Stephane Robert. Time will tell if Dimitrov can break his Grand Slam final duck.

Lucas Pouille

Lucas Pouille

Pouille was not on many people’s radar heading into last year and his name would have drawn shrugs from many regular observers of the sport. However, that all changed in 2016, when the 23-year-old reached two Tour finals and two consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals, at Wimbledon and the US Open, which included a sensational win over Rafael Nadal in the latter competition.

His sole title triumph this year was on clay in Budapest, where he convincingly crushed Briton Aljaz Bedene. At 6′ 1” he is not one of the tallest men on the circuit, but the Dubai resident compensates for that deficiency with a strong defensive game and a searing two-handed backhand.

Pouille’s first assignment at his home Major is against compatriot Julien Benneteau, a team-mate in France’s Davis Cup team. Given his remarkable recent improvement, bettering last year’s third-round performance at Roland Garros seems highly likely.

Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios

Kyrgios has been beset by plenty of controversies in his fledgling career, but the 22-year-old has certainly matured recently and his scintillating brand of tennis can trouble any player in the world.

The Australian shot to prominence at Wimbledon three years ago, with an all-action display that shocked Nadal and those in attendance at SW19. His explosive groundstrokes, excellent balance and soft hands make him an exciting player to watch and last year saw him develop greater consistency with titles in Marseille, Atlanta and Tokyo. 2017 has not been as successful trophies-wise, but Kyrgios has claimed two notable scalps over Novak Djokovic.

The Canberra-born player’s first test will be against the elegant Philipp Kohlschreiber, who could push his young opponent all the way. A potentially intriguing duel.

Pablo Carreno Busta

Pablo Carreno Busta

One of a seemingly endless number of Spaniards to roll off the production line, Carreno Busta has taken a little longer to bloom than some of his fellow countrymen. However, his game has come in massively in the last year and he is currently nestled just outside the top 20.

The 25-year-old can generate a lot of power off both wings and is not afraid to come in and dispatch the loose ball when necessary, with his delicate touch at the net an indication of his extensive doubles experience. Last year saw him pick up his first ATP Tour titles, in Winston-Salem and Moscow. The Gijon-born player then captured his first clay court title in Estoril just three weeks ago.

Carreno Busta faces German Florian Mayer in round one, with a potential third-round match-up against Dimitrov on the horizon.

Featured image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

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