From the outset, British No. 1 Kyle Edmund showed no signs of still basking in the glory of his win, arguably the biggest of his career, against Novak Djokovic.
As we expected, the serve/forehand one-two punch that has become his trademark did early damage in the noon-day sun as the shadow was creeping over the court. It would become key, as Edmund seemed to deal with the shade and the light far better than No. 8 seed David Goffin as he broke straight away and kept hold of that advantage to the end of the first set, breaking the Belgian one more to take the lead.
Goffin put him under pressure in the second set opener, forcing Edmund to save two break points before a more competitive spell for the pair. Edmund got the crucial break, for a 4-3 lead, and could not quite get the job done for break for the match, instead serving it put to set up a quarter-final match up with Denis Shapovalov, who won the battle of the Canadians against Milos Raonic.
Edmund had every right to be pretty chuffed with his performance, having avoided the hangover that can sometimes accompany a big win.
He said, after his match: “[I] knew I was playing well so it was just obviously try and do more of the same today with a slightly different opponent. I feel I got the game plan good, managed it well and served very well today.
“I think I’ve experienced that sort of game, when you are more of a junior. I think you get a reminder that when you get win a week. The next week you always get told make sure you back it up. Don’t lose in the first round. So you keep that momentum going. It is similar to this, having a good win.
“But I think I’ve been long enough on the tour now that a good win is nice, but when you have been here so long. A good win doesn’t mean anything. You have to produce consistent good wins to go up the rankings. I was eager to just go out there and keep my momentum going.”
Goffin, however was less than impressed with how he had performed, having let the shadow across the court distract him.
He said: “I think it was a really tough day, really bad conditions I think from both sides – there was no good points from the beginning until the end. It was not easy, not a good match.
“But, in the end, he played a little bit better and was more focused maybe. I’m not happy. I just was feeling good ok but the conditions was not great and I was focused on it and I’m a little bit angry on myself now.”
Having played Edmund when he was still quite wet behind the ears on his Davis Cup debut, had Goffin seen much change in the young Brit, some three years on?
“Honestly, it’s tough to say today because I didn’t put one ball in the court. But yeah what I saw in the last few months he improved a lot, great forehand, great first serve. He looks like a great guy with a great mentality so yeah he’s improving a lot.”
What a difference a year (and a bit) makes to both these young men. Last February, Edmund had already stepped into the breach as the British standard bearer for Davis Cup, but in the decisive singles rubber, what was already looking like a routine win for Edmund descended into chaos as Shapovalov struck a ball full force in frustration – only for it to smack umpire Arnaud Gabas in the face, fracturing his eye socket.
Shapovalov was defaulted, but since then he has become one of the shining lights of the ATP much-vaunted Next Generation, and proved that with a commanding performance against Raonic.
While Edmund has added some finesse to his own raw power, Shapovalov has always had a far more flashy style of play, with a great one-handed backhand and good skills up at the net.
What has impressed this week is Edmund’s work at the net as well, and we can expect some flair from both. They also carry a lot of confidence from some big wins, although arguably Edmund’s collection of scalps this week carries a little more clout.
Edmund had the benefit of being done and dusted before the Canadian even took to the court, and assessed his opposition:
“Shapovalov’s got good ground-strokes, likes to come forward, very active when he plays and stuff. Everyone in the quarter-finals now has won matches and is playing well so I I guess just try and do my thing, do my recovery, enjoy this one and once we know the opponent, sort of look to that.”
Shapovalov comes in with equally confidence-boosting performances, speaking warmly about the impact Raonic has had on Canadian tennis, and beating an idol puts him in the position of having absolutely nothing to lose against favourite on paper, Edmund.
He said: “I have another tough match against Kyle tomorrow. We’re 2-All. At the start of the year he beat me in a really close match. It was unbelievable tennis. It was the first match for both of us. The performance was really, really good from the both of us. I’m definitely expecting a tough match tomorrow. It’s going to be good tennis. We’re both playing extremely well. “
Having had the disappointment of Generation Lost Boys trying 9ald largely failing) to crack the domination of the Big Four, perhaps the ATPs ‘Next Gen’ will be the ones to come through.
Shapovalov continued: “I think the NextGen guys are really advancing this year. I feel like it’s going to continue this way for the next couple years. There’s going to be a lot of changes in the rankings, a lot of upsets, new champions coming up.
“We have a really talented group, a lot of young, hardworking guys that are actually really nice guys, too, which is always a bonus. Yeah, it’s a really strong group coming up. It’s unbelievable to see all these young guys doing well in these tournaments.
“To be honest, it motivates me as well. Look, Stefanos [Tsitsipas], he’s been playing exceptional for the past couple weeks. That’s motivated me to get back on the court, train extremely hard. This week I’ve managed to kind of do well, as well. I’m sure the rest of the guys are looking, as well, looking to work hard. It’s just great to see.”
Prediction: Edmund in three sets.
Edmund and Shapovalov are scheduled on Court Arantxa Sanchez, not before 7pm (6pm BST).
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