Kyle Edmund: The tortoise that broke through to the world's top 20

Kyle Edmund: The tortoise that broke through to the world's top 20

16 May 2018 / 08:04

"It would be great to get top 20, top 30 [in 2018]. I've had two years of the same end finish so in 2018 it's about a push up the rankings."

Maybe Kyle Edmund himself didn’t expect his year-start prophecy to come along so soon.

But now the man who has played tennis since he was ten years old has, at the age of 23, entered the world’s top 20 for the first time in his career.

An impressive Madrid Open is to thank for that, beating 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 6-3 and world No.10 David Goffin 6-3 6-3 to get through to the quarter finals.

And, unsurprisingly, those around him are now starting to take note.

“His forehand is obviously his weapon and he has been using it very well, backing up the serve with that forehand,” Djokovic said after the contest. “Kyle is playing the best tennis of his life.”

But to label this a one-tournament progression wouldn’t do justice to Edmund, who made the US Open fourth round two years ago in his Slam breakthrough – a run halted by that man Djokovic.

Yet even in victory his desire was to learn. By 2018 it had resulted in an Australian Open semi-final.

"It's been a great tournament for me,” he said of his US Open emergence. “There are loads of positives to take from the way I've been playing. I've got a lot of learning to do.”

Born in Johannesburg, Edmund moved to Britain when he was just three years old, and while initially interested in cricket and swimming, started having tennis lessons aged ten at David Lloyd Racquet and Fitness Club in Hull.

He made his first breakthrough on the junior circuit in 2011, when he reached the semi-finals of the US Open boys’ singles event before being defeated by Jiří Veselý of the Czech Republic.

But since then he has slowly yet very surely been made progress, at 13 moving to the National Sports Centre at Bisham Abbey and then to the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) Training Centre in Roehampton.

By 2014 he had US Open finalist Greg Rusedski in his corner as coach – a stint that only lasted a few months but included victory in the Junior Davis Cup for the first time – but even then, the former British No.1 could see what the current incumbent of that title was made of.

“He is a natural ball-striker with a forehand from heaven,” said Rusedski in January.

“You can go back to the group of British boys who won the hat-trick in 2011 – first the Winter Cup, then the Summer Cup, and finally the junior Davis Cup. It was a strong crop, but Kyle was always our No. 1.

“He hasn’t been discouraged by setbacks. Each year his tennis has improved, and now everything has clicked into place.

“The way he is going, that hare-and-tortoise story could soon carry him all the way into the world’s top ten.”

As Rusedski alludes to, this particular tortoise isn’t giving up the race quite yet.

And with Wimbledon less than two months away, there’s particular reason for Edmund and fans alike to get excited about what’s on the horizon.Yet in the same breath the 23-year-old is a man to keep his feet on the ground – it did, after all, take him five years to win his first game at Wimbledon, reaching the second round last year.

So for now, one of the quietest men in tennis is keen to make sure his voice is heard among the best.

“Novak is a legend so your first match when you share the court is an experience but now, especially after reaching the semis of the Australian Open, it’s time to try and beat these guys and I was very pleased how I managed my game, especially in the third set,” Edmund said.

“You have to set targets and I thought that getting in the top 20 was a very realistic target, so I'm pleased it's happened.

“But you know the way the tennis world works, you reach a target but it doesn't stop and you keep trying to get better."

Sportsbeat 2018