World Cup won’t distract Kyle Edmund against Novak Djokovic

Kyle Edmund practises at Wimbledon. Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire
Kyle Edmund practises at Wimbledon. Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire
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Wimbledon must be one of the few places on the planet that is a World Cup-free zone. The All England Club is not in competition with biggest football event on earth; the All England Club just is.

So it is, then, that they have scheduled Kyle Edmund’s third round showdown with Novak Djokovic as the third match on Centre Court today. In other words, he should be stepping out for what could be a defining moment in his career just as England are getting to squeaky bum time against Sweden out in Russia. And that is not what his team were hoping for.

Not only will the crowd be surreptitiously watching the big match on their phones and tablets but Edmund, a devoted football fan, will be keen to know the score, too. Then there is Edmund’s Swedish coach, Fidde Rosengren, and assistant coach Mark Hilton – a dyed-in-the-wool England fan. It is going to be a tense afternoon.

“In some ways you could say it would be better if it was first, because Kyle will want to watch the match,” Hilton said. “He’ll want to be involved in some shape or form. It can be quite draining, just emotionally because you can’t help get involved with it.”

But Edmund is nothing if not a consummate professional. Apart from his passion for the beautiful game, there is nothing that gets in between him and his utter dedication to tennis. That dedication has seen him make huge strides up the rankings and huge progress in the development of his game, both tactical and mental.

He has played Djokovic four times and won only once. But that once was a couple of months ago on the clay courts of Madrid and that could prove decisive today.

“I think it’s a different experience in one sense in that since Madrid, Novak has probably increased his level,” Hilton said. “But more importantly for Kyle is the belief that he can get over the line. That’s obviously what it is going to come down to a lot, when he is playing Novak or when is playing on these big stages, is whether he is going to win the last point.

“It’s all very well going on thinking you’re going to perform well but having that belief he can win is going to be so important and I think beating him in Madrid gives him that extra bit of belief.”

Showing off a vastly improved backhand this year (one that surprised Djokovic in Madrid) and moving far better than before on the grass, Edmund has, in Hilton’s eyes, more than a decent chance of winning this afternoon.

“There’s no doubt that Novak’s going to be a real stubborn test,” Hilton said. “We all know what his level is, especially on big occasions on this court. It’s whether Kyle can execute in the biggest moments, stay calm, which he has been doing so well. So I see no reason why he can’t win.”