Andy Murray delivered a huge performance in Washington in just his fifth match of the year to oust the man who replaced him as the British #1, Kyle Edmund. Edmund is ranked 18th in the world and earlier this season reached the Australian Open semifinals and has plenty of pedigree. He showed it at times in their three-set encounter, but Murray simply wanted it more, winning 7-6 1-6 6-4 on a humid day in the US capital. But what did we learn?
The fire is most certainly there
Murray has never been afraid to express himself on the court and he continued the habits of a lifetime against Edmund. Indeed, he provided a running commentary on his game in between points, regularly bemoaning his inability to keep the ball away from the dangerous Edmund forehand. More than once frustration got the better of him and left the former #1 roaring into the heavens. But for the majority of the contest, Murray was able to fire himself up.
He did, admittedly go missing for the duration of the second set, in which he managed to win just one game and he was perhaps lucky to win the first, with Edmund twice tightening up when ahead. But when it mattered most, in the first set tiebreak and deep in the decider, Murray stood up to be counted. How much he wanted the win was obvious, but he was able to keep his emotions, both positive and negative, in check and play the sort of tennis he needed to get it. That bodes well.
Murray’s movement impressive
There were real fears when Murray withdrew from the Australian Open earlier this year in order to have surgery that he would never return to the tennis court. Hip problems are notoriously difficult to overcome for any sportsmen, but they’re particularly troublesome for tennis players, for whom the ability to quickly and decisively change direction is essential. Those fears were mostly put to rest by Murray at Queen’s and in Eastbourne and his movement again looked good in Washington.
Though he had to watch a fair few of Edmund’s shot sail past him, the Yorkshireman is amongst the biggest hitters on Tour. Generally, however, Murray was able to stifle Edmund’s attacking prowess with his defensive skills which have long been the cornerstone of his success. That’s fortunate for Murray, because problem areas in his game remain. His second serve was exposed time and time again and his forehand is still lacking in conviction.
Murray is a long way off the top of the mountain, and it will take a lot more wins for him to get his game back to its best, but it is very encouraging to see that the fundamentals are there for him. And the more wins he can get, the more matches he will play. At this stage in his comeback time on court is crucial. So whilst there are still probably a fair number of frustrating losses to come, so far so good for the two-time Wimbledon champion.
Edmund flatters to deceive again
Edmund is a fine player, and his achievement in reaching the Australian Open semifinals is commendable, but the increasingly common suggestions that he could reach the top ten still seem rather far-fetched. Edmund is yet to win an ATP title, he’s the only player in the top 20 without one, and his results since reaching that semifinal in Melbourne have been middling at best. He did reach the final in Marrakesh, but it was a weak draw and he was crushed there by world #355 Pablo Andujar.
In his defence, Andujar is a better player than his ranking suggests having suffered badly over the past few years with injuries. But it was still a fairly humbling loss for Edmund. He was also badly outmatched by Djokovic at Wimbledon in their third round clash once the Serb had clicked into gear, despite having the backing of a crowd that went far beyond the realms of acceptable behaviour in supporting him. That match illustrated how large the gulf remains between Edmund and the best of the best.
His game is a long way short of being complete. His forehand is a big weapon, but he has not learned how to control the power he has on that wing and misses too often with it. He has made impressive improvements to his backhand, serve and movement, for which he deserves credit. But his returning game is still very poor and his volleying was abysmal throughout against Murray.
Most concerning, however, was his attitude. He never really looked like he thought he could get the win, despite having beaten Murray in June at Devonshire Park. He should have won the first set, but tightened up, and then failed to press his advantage in the decider when he had Murray on the ropes after dominating the second. And when Murray raised his level late in the match, Edmund remained passive. It cost him badly.