British No. 1 Kyle Edmund started in commanding fashion as he looked to go one better than his run to the final last year. It heralded a milestone for Edmund as he reached his first ATP World Tour level final, backing up a great start to the year by reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
Nerves may have got the better of him in the final last year, but there were no nerves on show against a young French player, Ugo Humbert, whose own confidence is up having reached a career high of World No. 63.
Humbert had flair at times, but was made to work for any holds as Edmund looked very comfortable on a surface tha very much suits him. With impressively sharp movement, Edmund was quick to break in the first set keeping the pressure up on the young Frenchman. Even when Humbert denied Edmund the chance of a decisive break, saving four break points along the way, Edmund responded with a hold to love before breaking Humbert for the first set.
It was an early break in the second before the first change-over that put the British No. 1 in the driving seat, booking his spot in the second round with a break over the Frenchman.
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Edmund’s reward is another Frenchman, this one considerably longer in the tooth. Although he is coming back having sat out most of 2018 after knee surgery, with a tentative and not too productive return to the tour in September, it has looked a different story for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He started the year with a run to the semi-final in Brisbane and won the Montpelier title.
Tsonga came through his first round with a little bit of a test in the second set, taken to a tie-break after roaring through the first set. Edmund can expect to be on the end of big serves and will be facing a barrage of heavy forehands. For quite a big unit, Tsonga has a surprisingly deft touch at the net.
Edmund looks to have really improved his movement – his lightness of feet in recovery after his shots really stood out in his first round, and perhaps just slightly you would have to give him a slight edge on clay, but he is against a player with a lot of experience, and at least as many weapons as Edmund has, if not slightly more.
This is winnable, but it will be more of a grind than either of their first round encounter.
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