Kyle Edmund gains from experience at US Open

Kyle Edmund may not have left so much as a scratch on Novak Djokovic's defences on Sunday night but he did leave his mark on the US Open.

Kyle Edmund stretches for a shot during his match against Novak Djokovic. Picture: Getty.
Kyle Edmund stretches for a shot during his match against Novak Djokovic. Picture: Getty.

The 21-year-old came to New York as the world No.84, one of those plucky Brits who was expected to last a round or two and then exit stage left when no one was looking. But Edmund had other ideas and even if he was taught a lesson 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 by the world No.1 in the fourth round, it was a lesson he was desperate to learn.

He leaves New York with his ranking pushed up to No.55 in the world and with his confidence on an all-time high. He had beaten Richard Gasquet and John Isner on his way to the Djokovic match and once there, he had made a fight of it in the third set. Despite the loss, life was looking awfully good for young Edmund.

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“I just enjoyed the experience,” he said. “It was obviously a tough match. I came off a lot happier than I was during the rest of the match just because I got something going and started to impose myself a lot better at the end. So that was good.

“There’s just a lot of learning to do from it, which is a good thing. To play the world No 1 on the biggest tennis court in the world – it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s been a great tournament for me. Loads and loads of positives, the way I’ve been playing. The good thing is, I feel like there’s a lot of stuff I can improve on and get better, as well, and the level I’m playing at.”

The result was always going to depend on Djokovic. He arrived in New York with concerns over a wrist problem that caused him to miss the Cincinnati tournament and with an ongoing arm and elbow problem. Then, after his opening match, his opponents simply faded away: Jiri Vesely pulled out injured without striking a ball in the second round and Mikhail Youzhny last six games in the third round before throwing in the towel with a sore hamstring.

Edmund’s hope was that Djokovic might be a little ring rusty after so little time on court. Alas, that was not the case.

The world No 1 was at full throttle from the first ball and even if Edmund had Djokovic scrambling after a few thundering forehands, he could not find a way to hurt him.

But then Djokovic called for the trainer in the third set. Already a break up, he was cruising but that right elbow was giving him gyp and he needed some treatment. From there, Edmund ran away with the next three games and gave Djokovic something to think about. It was never going to be enough to turn the match around but it was enough to impress the defending champion. He can see Edmund pushing for the top sooner rather than later.

“I think he was overwhelmed by the stage today,” Djokovic said. “It’s his first Arthur Ashe night session. His first match on the biggest stadium. He made a lot of errors. But generally he played a good tournament. He beat Gasquet; he beat Isner. For someone his age he’s showing mental maturity, no doubt. He’s getting things together.

“Tonight, I think he hasn’t played on the level that he can, to be honest. But his forehand is really big. When he sets it up very nicely, he can hit a very good forehand from all over the court. If he keeps going the same path that he’s on right now, there is no doubt that he has a quality and big chance to get there.

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“He does seem like a profile of a person and a player that is very committed, very professional, down-to-earth, nice guy, good manners. I’m quite confident he’s going to get there soon.”

As for Edmund, seldom can defeat have tasted so sweet. He had made his grand slam breakthrough, he had played on the biggest court in the world and he had the mental and physical stamina to challenge the best players at the major tournaments.

“It’s given me a lot more belief in my game,” Edmund said. “Not that I didn’t believe in my game, but it’s nice to actually do it on a big stage against some good players. I’m just pleased with how it’s gone. To win three best-of-five sets, I’ve never done in my career. It was nice that I’ve been consistently able to do that.”