To win any tournament requires talent, hard work and a little luck. Alas, Kyle Edmund fell short on the latter yesterday, pulling out of his third-round match with Denis Shapovalov in the fourth set with a neck injury.
Sitting in the bottom half of the draw where most of the big names had already departed in tears and a taxi – John Isner, the world No 15, is the highest ranked player left in that section – there was a chance for any man with hope and ambition to make a charge into the second week. Edmund, the world No 42, and Britain’s lone singles representative in the last 32, had every right to think that man might be him. He knows he has a forehand that can knock holes in brick walls and this summer he has played well, reaching the semi-finals in Winston-Salem a couple of weeks ago. But it was not to be yesterday.
“It’s never great to win this way,” Shapovalov said. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. Kyle’s been playing unbelievable tennis. If he keeps it up he’s going to be doing really well. He’s a very tough opponent.
“In one of the games on deuce he hit a second serve and I heard him grunt, as if he had hurt something. I missed the return, but I saw something was up and he called for the trainer at that changeover. It’s very unfortunate but at the same time I’m happy to be in the fourth round.”
When he faced Shapovalov, the 18-year-old talent from Canada, Edmund knew he was the man with the experience and track record at Flushing Meadows to move forward. After all, he was attempting to reach the fourth round at the Open for the second year running. As they walked into the sparsely populated Arthur Ashe stadium, it was Edmund who knew his way around. He had played Novak Djokovic on the same court last year and the experience showed.
For the first few games, Shapovalov looked edgy. The normally flamboyant winners that he can hit off both the forehand and backhand side were missing the mark and he seemed a little overwhelmed by the occasion and the venue.
The Canadian only made his grand slam debut a couple of months ago at Wimbledon – and he lost in the first round – so every day he spends in New York is a new experience. That said, he is learning all the time and having beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous round, he was not lacking confidence.
Once Edmund took the first set, Shapovalov settled down a little. He had had chances in the first set – he broke the Edmund serve – and he just needed to keep attacking to create a few more.
Shapovalov fought back to level and, at a set apiece, it did seem the two were digging in for a battle royal. At the start of the third set, Edmund began leathering his forehand again while Shapovalov was looking for any opening to whip his backhand beyond the Yorkshireman’s reach. And then Edmund hurt his neck in the fifth game. The match eventually ended not with a bang but a whimper, with Shapovalov leading 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0.
Shapovalov finds himself as the youngest man since Michael Chang in 1989 to reach the US Open fourth round. With the draw torn to shreds, he has as good a chance as anyone to stamp his mark on the second week of the tournament.