When a young tennis player by the name of Kyle Edmund broke into the world’s top 50 players in the autumn of 2016, no-one was happier than Andy Murray.
The Scot, then riding high after his second Wimbledon title and Olympic gold, praised the 21-year-old for the hard graft he had shown while joining him during gruelling training blocks in the sweltering heat of Miami and Dubai.
Speaking from experience, he predicted that Edmund’s next challenge would be a mental one. “He’s got to become more self-centred in his outlook,” Murray advised.
The evidence of the past fortnight would suggest that Edmund, the bright young thing of British tennis, has heeded the advice of his elder.
Edmund, now, 23, is the talk of the game having stunned the Australian Open third seed, Grigor Dimitrov, to reach his first Grand Slam semi final.
In the aftermath of the match, Edmund joked that he now appreciated the glare of the limelight, having carried British hopes through the tournament. “I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray for the last eight years or so,” he wryly observed.
While the two men are good friends off-court, Edmund’s emergence has prompted questions about what his success will mean for his mentor and role model.
Yesterday’s surprise result prompted a flurry of posts on social media posing the question: “Andy who?” One Twitter user, Mark Thompson, even sent a message to the Scot, advising him: “Retire now! We have the new Andy Murray!”
Such talk may be premature and not entirely earnest, but there is no doubt that Edmund’s upward trajectory is shaking up the status quo. Should he navigate his way to the Australian Open final, he will wrest from Murray the title of British No.1, an accolade the Scot has held uninterrupted for the past 12 years.
However, some believe the prospect of Edmund joining the elite of the men’s game will be viewed as a positive by Murray, spurring him on to return to full fitness and his competitive best.
Amanda Owens, the former British tennis player who now works as a sports psychologist, told The Scotsman: “Andy would not view losing his No.1 ranking as a negative, it is something that will drive him on to come back.
“From a psychological point of view, I think Andy will view Kyle’s success as a good thing. Now he has another British player who is pushing him a bit after years where he was out in front.”
She added: “Andy is professional through and through and has dealt with some huge setbacks over the course of his career. He is incredibly resilient, and one of his greatest qualities is the way he supports other British players.”
Whether Edmund’s victory was a blip or the announcemet of a prodigious new talent, he can rely on one high-profile supporter. At the conclusion of yesterday’s match, Murray, currently recuperating from hip surgery, posted his assessment on Twitter. “Wow,” it stated.
Owens, who has worked with Edmund’s coach, Mark Hilton, believes that bond and the fledgling rivalry can only be good for the sport.
“Andy has done a huge amount to support and encourage young players, and with Kyle on the scene, it’s only going to drive up interest in tennis,” she added.