For once, Kyle Edmund sounded animated. Well, almost. He had just reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, holding his nerve longer than Grigor Dimitrov to do so, and he was as happy as he had ever been on a tennis court.
“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” he said, slightly less quietly than usual. “I’m 23 years old, my first grand slam semi-final. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor.
“Of course, all these things I’m aware of. They’re great feelings. You don’t obviously play in the semi-finals of a grand slam every day, or a quarters like today.
“At the end when that ball was out, it was such a good feeling for me knowing that I’d won and through to my first semis. I was really happy with it. I’m trying to enjoy it as much today as possible.”
No one would class yesterday’s match as a classic but for Edmund, it was massive milestone in his career. To beat the world No 3 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 was impressive. To be mentally and physically stronger in the crunch moments, to fight his way out of trouble when he let opportunities slip away – such as conceding his early lead in the first set and facing break points as he served for that set – and to be as cool as ice as he served out for the match.
All tthat showed the world a new Kyle Edmund – man with the serve and the forehand to beat the big boys and the heart to win the big matches.
Tim Henman, in town on All England Club business, watched on from the President’s Box. His best results in Melbourne were three fourth rounds in 10 attempts, a record he openly admits is not great. He did, though, reach the final four at the other three major championships and he was impressed at the way Edmund had become only the sixth British man in the Open era to reach a grand slam semi-final.
“For me the impressive thing that we’ve witnessed this year is how he is coming through the tight matches,” Henman said. “If you look at his deciding set record last year it was fairly poor for a player of his ability and I think coming into this match I would have said he’s got nothing to lose. But, when you get up two sets to one with a break, then you have something to lose.
“He looks much more mature on the court, it’s a big occasion. He is fit and strong.
The way he finished that match off will give him so much confidence – thirty-all, a big ace up the middle. That last point was a great rally, it was really impressive.”
The relief when Dimitrov’s final backhand sailed wide was plain to see.
Edmund is a quiet and serious man who thinks about little other than his tennis and Liverpool FC. But when he knew that he had won, he did not know what to do with himself. He pumped his fist shyly at his box, he covered his face with hands and then he just sank into his chair, shaking his head and soaking up the applause.
Up in the players’ box, his new coach, Fredrik “Fidde” Rosengren was wiping away a few tears whci he hoped no one spotted. The Swede is passionate and dedicated and Mats Wilander believes that it is these qualities that can bring the best out of Edmund.
“Fidde is a great coach,” Wilander said, “an unbelievable coach, but a much better human being. He cares, he’s passionate and he takes a player closer to his potential.
“That’s why Magnus Norman got to No 2 in the world – he had no business being No 2 in the world, or so we thought in Sweden and suddenly there he was.
“I played with Fidde since I was seven years old. I think he’s good at making players take responsibility for their decisions. Make decisions. Commit to them. Sometimes you’re wrong, sometimes you’re right.
“I think pushing them emotionally, pushing them a little bit harder. With Kyle, that could be the difference. Could be a couple of the forehands he hits, too!
“Fidde is all about ‘look me in the eye when you talk to me, look the player in the eye’. The fight is everything for Fidde. That’s what Kyle needs.”
What Edmund also needed was a little bit of luck and, when Rafael Nadal limped out of his match against Marin Cilic, felled by a right hip injury that surfaced in the fourth set, he got it. He will now play the tall Croat tomorrow.
Cilic, he of the monster serve, is no mean foe. The world No 6 is playing at the peak of his form this week. But he is not Nadal and for Edmund, new to playing at this stage of a major tournament, that could make all the difference. Henman certainly thinks so.
“If it’s Cilic,” Henman said, “Kyle definitely has a shot.”