At last Kyle Edmund did not hang about. Taking a speedy seven minutes to wrap up his win yesterday, he headed into the second round of the French Open only to turn round and find that there were no other Britons following him.
Cameron Norrie was sent packing by a 20-year-old Frenchman who had never won a match on the main tour before and Dan Evans was finally given his marching orders by Fernando Verdasco after three and a half hours of effort. Edmund apart, les Rosbifs were not having a good day.
Edmund was back on court 14 hours after his first-round match with Jeremy Chardy of France was suspended at 5-5 in the fifth set on Monday night due to bad light. Played in front of a raucous, partisan crowd, Britain’s No 1 was determined to silence the cheerleaders and put Chardy in his place from the first ball. In the end, he needed only ten points to get the job done and, unsurprisingly, he was extremely pleased with himself and his 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win.
“My aim today was just to come out really firing and almost impose myself on him,” Edmund said. “I just felt good this last week. I had a really good training week, probably the best I’ve had in a long time. So I was happy through that and confident in my ability.”
It was only Edmund’s second win on clay this year – and he had not won a match in 51 days. Coming after a miserable couple of months, his mental and physical strength barely wavered for the four hours and two minutes it took to reach the second round – a hugely positive sign after such a grim run.
“I actually felt I was playing my best tennis at the end of the match or end of yesterday’s match,” he explained. “Which maybe logically it doesn’t make sense because you are more fatigued, but my level was at its best in the fifth set, which is, yeah, good in a very important way that I’m able to produce my best tennis when it counts.
“And that gave me a lot of confidence in my body and my level that after that length of time, I could do that: I was actually playing my best tennis at the end, which was good.”
He will have to be at his best again indeed if he is to get past Pablo Cuevas in the next round. The 33-year-old from Uruguay is ranked No 47 in the world (Edmund is No 30) but clay is his surface and he had won a couple of Challenger titles on the stuff in the past six weeks and reached the final of the Estoril event.
Norrie, pictured, knew from the off that he was in trouble against Elliot Benchetrit, a qualifier from Nice. He had warmed up well, he was hitting the ball nicely in practice and he felt great as he made his way to Roland Garros. And then the match started and Norrie had a shocker: nothing he tried was working and no matter where he tried to put the ball, it ended up long, wide or shy of the mark. Losing nine consecutive games from the end of the first set to the start of the third sealed his fate and 33 unforced errors and one hour and 24 minutes later, he was dismissed 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
“I started a little bit nervous, and I never really got into the match,” Norrie said. “When he was aggressive, he was executing. When I was aggressive, I really didn’t execute anything. I never found my level at all. I mean, short balls, volleys, wasn’t my day today.
“I was hitting the ball well in the warm-up, and I thought I was going to be fine. It was just one of those days. It was just a tough day, and tough for me to kind of turn it around and I couldn’t find a way. I tried everything, and it was tough.”
Evans, too, tried everything he could think of but it was never quite enough to get the better of Verdasco. He made the Spaniard work for his win but Verdasco was that bit better, that bit more experienced on the clay, and ultimately he was the 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 winner. No matter, Evans had tested himself against a very good player and given a good account of himself. Now he can look to the grass court season with some optimism.
“I feel like I’m pretty close to the good guys again,” he said, “and there’s nothing really negative about today. Obviously I wanted to win some matches but I found my level today and I was pretty close to someone who’s a consistent player day in and day out, week in, week out.”