There is a lot to be said for the confidence of wins under your belt, and the run to the Estoril final seemed to pay off dividends as British No. 1 Kyle Edmund halted two-time Madrid champion Novak Djokovic, as the former World No. 1 still searches for consistency.
Edmund roared off the blocks with an immediate break, only to be pegged straight back but the Brit took his chance in the middle of the set to take the lead once more. He went on to break Djokovic for the set.
However, the momentum shifted with Djokovic immediately breaking at the start of the second set and securing a double-break cushion to level things up. Coming into this season Djokovic has yet to come out on the winning end of a third set decider and having squandered three break points. It took just a simple break and a serve to love for Edmund to register one of the biggest wins of his career.
After the match he said: “It’s a great win for me. I mean, he’s won this event twice. It’s obviously more than that. He’s a legend of the game. One of the best tennis players of all time. So, yeah, it’s a really good win for me.
“Pleased with the way my game’s developing, that I’m able to beat a player like that. So, does me the world of good in lots of ways: confidence, belief. It’s just a really good win for me.”
He continued: “To beat a big name, you know what he’s done in the game, the pressures that come with that.
“It was good that I performed under pressure, came up with some good tennis when I needed to.”
Djokovic, who came into press immediately after his loss, was very complementary about a new British No. 1 on the scene.
“He has improved. His forehand is obviously his weapon and he has been using it very well, backing up the serve with that forehand. Backhand, he has improved his backhand, down the line. Couple important points he won with that shot today.
“Obviously new coach and someone I’ve known for many years. He worked with Ancic. He is a very good coach, you know. Definitely Kyle is playing the best tennis of his life.”
Few who were there can forget how a young Edmund, making his debut for Team GB in the Davis Cup Final no less, forced the far more experienced David Goffin to play a full five sets to et the win.
Back in those days and for a year or so afterwards, Edmund’s body would let him down as he struggled to control cramping, especially in the heat of five-set battle – but now those days seem a long time gone.
There have been a couple of freak injuries that have halted the otherwise steady consistency of Goffin but his credentials on the clay this year have seen him reach the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, and the semi-final in Barcelona. Goffin’s strength is his movement and groundstrokes, although the Belgian does lack the firepower, and this is where Edmund could really do some damage.
The altitude has really suited Edmund’s game and his serve and forehand were firing well today. But it is the visible improvement in his movement and coming forward at the net, his finesse when there, and the improvements to his backhand that really made the difference today.
Edmund said, about the upcoming encounter: “Last time I played him, the only time I played him, was obviously at that Davis Cup match. Very intense match. Big experience for me playing obviously my first Davis Cup in the Final away in Belgium. So much experience learnt from that.
“I’ll think about it and talk to my coach a little bit later or tomorrow, talk about the game. Just enjoy this one for the time being, the little time we have.”
Prediction: Edmund in three sets.
Edmund and Goffin are scheduled first on Court Arantxa Sanchez at 12pm (11am BST)
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