The future is safe for now (the Brexit vote notwithstanding): Kyle Edmund, Britain’s young pretender, has been put in his place and Andy Murray is through to the semi-finals of the Aegon Championships more or less unscathed.
It took a little under two hours for Murray to defuse the Edmund forehand 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in a match that showed the potential of the world No 85 and the amount of work Murray still has to do to get himself into peak form for the start of Wimbledon. Edmund played very well and ought to rise to No 68 in the world order when the new list is released on Monday; Murray, on the other hand, played within himself, a polite way of saying he made too many errors for his own liking.
Some of Murray’s problems were of his own making and only at the start of the third set as he growled at himself to get fired up and get going did he look like his old self.
Then again, a lot of his problems were of Edmund’s making – Britain’s third best player was trying to seize his moment and was winning plenty of friends among the crowd as he did so.
“Kyle was hitting the ball big throughout the match,” Murray said, “but at the end of that second set, when he went up, he was going for it. He kept good intensity there. But I expected that.
“He has a big game. I have obviously trained with him. I know when he has time how well he can hit the ball, so I expected that. The forehand, yeah, it’s a big shot; that’s his main weapon.
“But also the serve isn’t slow. It’s a big serve. So when he’s landing first serves and then getting the first shot of the rally on his forehand, he can dictate a lot of the points. I think if you want to get to the top of the game, you need to have weapons, and he has them.”
But enough of Edmund – the main concern was how Murray was feeling with Wimbledon just nine days away. The answer seemed to be: better than expected. There was a moment of concern at the end of the second set when, on the slick grass, the Scot slipped, yelped and crumpled in a heap clutching his groin. For a moment, he did not move and then, very gingerly, he stood up and got back to work with no real damage done.
“When you slip and fall over, it is a shock at first,” he said. “You’ll see most players, they kind of stay down for a few seconds. The pain either stays or goes away. It is more a shock at the beginning: you immediately fear the worst and then after a few seconds you feel a bit better.”
That news came as a relief but perhaps the real clue to the seriousness of the fall lay with coach Ivan Lendl: he did not twitch so much as an eyelash (Old Stone Face takes the term ‘deadpan’ to a whole new level). He had begun his work with Murray with their first practice session down the road at Wimbledon and now it was up to the Scot to follow instructions and get the job done.
“Next week we’ll get more time,” Murray said. “We had one practice at Wimbledon for an hour and a half. The rest has mainly been match warm-ups.
“There are certain things in practice we work on. There is nothing technical, just patterns of play and the shots that are going to help me win on grass, as well.”
Overnight, Lendl will have been putting his mind to the challenge of which shots Murray should play today against Marin Cilic, the 6ft 6ins Queen’s club champion of 2012. Cilic was a finalist the following year but was beaten by the Scot as he has been in all but two of 12 meetings with the world No.2.
“He has played well here,” Murray said. “He serves well. Obviously a big guy. He has a big reach on the returns, too. If you look at his stats, often he returns the first serve well throughout the year across all of the surfaces.
“I think he’s had a few injuries this year but when he’s fit and healthy, he’s always around the top of the game.”
The problem for Cilic is that, when Murray is fit and healthy, he is also around the top of the game – and at a higher level than the Croat.
Today will be a test for Murray but providing he can remain upright throughout, it is a winnable test.