Even as the men’s roster continues to be plagued by injury, with Britain’s own Andy Murray being the most notable omission, few would’ve foreseen Kyle Edmund’s remarkable run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open, the year’s maiden major. Unfortunately overcoming 2014 US Open winner and 2017 Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic was a step too far for Edmund, who lost to the Croatian in straight sets. But Edmund, who was bidding to become only the fourth British player to make a Grand Slam final since 1936, should take great confidence from not only his journey to the semi-finals at Melbourne but the nature of it.
Edmund downed the experienced Andreas Seppi, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Denis Istomin but more impressively the British no.2 defeated world no.11 Kevin Anderson in round one and world no.3 and current Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter finals. Considering that Edmund’s previous best appearance at a major was a 4th round run at the 2016 US Open, his success at Melbourne this year is a huge step up and a great statement of intent as we move closer to an Andy Murray-less world. Perhaps, rather ironically because Murray has been a great supporter of Edmund’s during his modest rise up the rankings, the absence of Britain’s no.1 has actually been beneficial for Edmund. Following Murray’s supreme 2016, Edmund seemed destined to wallow in the shadows for a few more seasons at least.
“Beyond his obvious strengths, the powerful groundstrokes and a solid serve, Edmund has looked far more comfortable and effective against the big servers he has encountered at Melbourne.”
But with Murray’s extended stay on the sidelines and the growing influence of Edmund’s new coach, Fredrik Rosengren, Edmund looks better positioned to keep British hopes alight. Edmund, for the time being, is free of the Murray comparison and coincidently free of British competition. Dan Evans, who made it to the 4th round at Melbourne last year, is currently serving a one-year ban for failing a drugs test last April and Aljaz Bedene has switched back to representing Slovenia following a failed application to represent Great Britain in the Davis Cup. This means that Edmund is now the only active British player in the top 100 – a new responsibility that he has taken on admirably.
Beyond his obvious strengths, the powerful groundstrokes and a solid serve, Edmund has looked far more comfortable and effective against the big servers he has encountered at Melbourne. Similarly to Federer’s improvement of his backhand in recent years, Edmund has made subtle tweaks to his game that have made him more versatile. These improvements and additions may not have surfaced efficiently against Cilic, but Edmund has shown a huge leap in quality over the course of the last two weeks in Australia.
Edmund’s success therefore doesn’t seem like a stroke of luck, rather a positive by-product of a focused pre-season. Encouragingly for Edmund many of those ahead of him in the rankings have looked sluggish in the year’s first major. The likes of Wawrinka, Raonic and Djokovic still look very far away from their best form and fitness whereas Edmund is going from strength to strength. After his showing in Melbourne, Edmund will climb up to a career high no.26 – just six places and 300 points behind Murray. As many of the big hitters continue to play catch up, Edmund looks as well prepared as anyone to continue taking advantage.