Kyle Edmund throws away two set lead as Fernando Verdasco fights back to dump British No 1 out of WimbledonJuly 5, 2019
Nine points from home. First, as John McEnroe said, he ‘blew it’. Then his right leg went. And suddenly, what had looked like a straightforward afternoon for Kyle Edmund ended with him sunk in the second round.
Afterwards, he might as well have shown up on a psychiatrist’s couch, his mind a soup of confusion during the press conference. Was he injured? Had it really hampered him? Or, as he suggested, was he simply not fit enough for the task of a long Wimbledon match?
Whatever the diagnosis the bald fact is that the top British player in the men’s singles had been defeated by Fernando Verdasco, a 35-year-old Spaniard, who had blown hot and cold for much of the contest.
Edmund unpicked strapping on his finger as he slumped in his chair after a 3hr 43min defeat mainly spent in a mutual exchange of thumping forehands.
He was left to ponder the moment when he should have started to close out the match, at 3-1 and 40-0 up in the third set. He then hit six unforced errors, lost the game and all the momentum he had.
‘You’ve got to win those points,’ admitted the 24-year-old Yorkshireman. As for the injury, he was uncertain of what had happened. ‘Yeah, I just slipped over. When you slip, it’s just a bit of a shock. You obviously don’t plan to slip, so… when stuff like that happens, you have just got to regroup.’
Confusingly he added: ‘It didn’t hold me back. My leg just straightened. In that moment, I felt something. I was able to play on. It was a long match, quite physical. The sort of intensity that I showed in the first part gradually just declined.’
Asked if he thought his undoing was as much mental as physical, he said: ‘Not really, no. I don’t even know what to say to that.’ Is it a question of conditioning? ‘Yeah, definitely I need to improve. Coming into Wimbledon a lot of focus had been on trying to get physically stronger. Before Queen’s it was about going to the gym rather than putting hours in on the tennis court. Now I’ve got to try to put some more hours in.’
It raises questions about whether there is some friction with his coach Mark Hilton about plotting his development.
But it should be pointed out that Edmund does not have a reputation for being a shirker and he can fight hard, too, just as he did in his gutsy first-round victory over the home-backed Jeremy Chardy at a partisan Roland Garros a few weeks ago.
He has also trained with US Navy SEAL David Goggins, trying to give himself an edge. And he had played well up until his problems, building on his decent opening match and his semi-final at Eastbourne on his way to SW19.
But then he lost a tiebreak in the 3rd — the sixth time in seven attempts this year — and on we went into a fourth and fifth set.
His play from here on became erratic. The Spaniard was now strong, smiling even when losing a line-call challenge, whereas before he — and his wife, Ana Boya — had been howling Spanish profanities in exasperation.
The crowd no doubt wanted Edmund to win but it was not one of those tidal waves of cheers that we have heard before for our No 1s.
Despite his twinge, or whatever it was, Edmund did not foresee a period of recovery away from the game. He is scheduled to compete in the Citi Open in Washington at the end of the month.
‘I didn’t get through,’ he said. ‘It’s a lesson learned. I will spend the next few weeks on a good little block (of training) and try to get my fitness up.
‘There’s a great opportunity in the hard court season for me.’