In his first Wimbledon as the top ranked British man, Kyle Edmund begins his campaign for glory against Australian qualifier Alex Bolt. Edmund has had a career-best season and finds himself ranked inside the top 20 at world #17, although due to Wimbledon’s unique seeding rules he is only the 21st seed. Bolt walked away from the game in 2016 for a period, but has since returned and is playing the best tennis of his career. But will it be enough to upset Edmund?
Bolt and Edmund have never played with the Australian playing the majority of his tennis away from the main Tour. That is reflected in the different levels of experience between the two men. Whilst neither have yet won a title, Edmund has 74 career victories to his name at Tour-level. Bolt has just one. Whilst Bolt has twice played in the main draw at Melbourne Park, this is the first time he has played at another Slam; for Edmund it will be a 19th appearance at a Major.
Last time out
Edmund’s French Open ended in the third round after a hard-fought five set defeat at the hands of Fabio Fognini. He next played competitively at Queen’s Club, where he battled past America’s Ryan Harrison 7-6 6-4 to reach the second round. There he was beaten by Nick Kyrgios 6-7 7-6 3-6, who had earlier in the week accounted for Murray. In Eastbourne it was Edmund who got the better of Murray, beating him 6-4 6-4 in second round action before losing to Mikhail Kukushkin 7-5 3-6 1-6.
Bolt began his grass court season at the Surbiton Challenger, defeating Britain’s Jay Clarke in three sets in the first round before losing to Yuki Bhambri 4-6 6-3 1-6. He then qualified into the main draw in Rosmalen and defeated Vasek Pospisil in the first round to claim a maiden Tour-level win. Mackenzie McDonald accounted for him in the second round in straight sets. In Ilkley he lost first round, but he beat Quentin Halys, Alexander Ward and compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis at Roehampton to reach Wimbledon proper.
How do they match up?
The centrepiece of Kyle Edmund’s game is a monstrous forehand. Few hit the ball bigger from that wing than the Yorkshireman although he does have a tendency to over-press with the shot when matches are going against him. He has improved his backhand considerably, and it is an increasingly useful weapon for Edmund although it still fails him on his occasion. His second serve remains a problem area, with the more effective returners often able to punish Edmund on that shot.
Bolt is generally consistent off both the forehand and backhand, and his serve is useful enough, although not particularly powerful in comparison with the players he now finds himself competing against. Bolt has never faced an opponent ranked as high as Edmund and how he is able to respond to the step up will determine his chances in this match. In his favour, at least, is his skill at the net, honed by the years he spent in his childhood and teens playing on grass in Murray Bridge in South Australia.
Edmund may not be the most natural grass court player nor particularly comfortable at Wimbledon where he has won just one match, but he should have enough to defeat Bolt. The Australian’s achievement in qualifying into the main draw is a commendable one, but it is hard to see what he can bring to defeat a player of Edmund’s calibre. The Briton will have too much power for Bolt and expect him to reach the second round a straight sets victor.