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Hard work pays off as Kyle Edmund's comeback picks up steam at Citi Open
The 2018 Australian Open semifinalist won his first ATP main-draw match in nearly two years in Washington, D.C., and is already looking ahead to the challenge of playing countryman Dan Evans on Tuesday.
Published Aug 02, 2022
WATCH: Edmund won one of the last tournaments held before the COVID-19 pandemic, and later began a two-year odyssey to heal his injured left knee.
WASHINGTON—Kyle Edmund’s comeback from multiple knee surgeries picked up an important milestone when he won his first ATP main-draw match in 24 months against Yosuke Watanuki at the Citi Open.
“I felt really happy and a bit of relief,” the former world No. 14 told TENNIS.com after the 6-4, 7-6 (8) victory. “Not relief that it was over, but just, having the time out that I’ve had, it was just extremely nice to get rewards for the hard work that I’ve put in.”
Edmund had slowly built momentum this summer with a return to action at Wimbledon’s mixed doubles tournament and a pair of ATP Challenger victories in Winnipeg, but Monday marked his first ATP-level tournament since fall 2020, and his first win since that year’s US Open.
The road back has been slow and steady, but the 27-year-old Edmund admits this deliberate approach back to tennis wasn’t entirely by choice.
“I just wanted to get back as quickly as possible, and it just wasn’t going as quickly as I would have liked it to be,” he explained. “I just wasn’t ready and things took an extremely long time.”
Edmund had planned a flashier comeback earlier this summer but was ultimately derailed by a third procedure on his knee—the latest in what has been a four-year injury odyssey that began after he reached his maiden major semifinal at the 2018 Australian Open.
The times I couldn’t play were extremely frustrating, but trying to get back was my entire focus. I played tennis my whole life so it’s not like I had other things going on; I was doing everything I could to get back because it was all I could do. Kyle Edmund
“I wanted to play the grass but I still wasn’t ready because I had to have another procedure. I thought it would be nice to play something at Wimbledon, and mixed doubles was the best option in terms of load and intensity: you’re playing doubles, and it’s only best of three. That’s the only discipline like that, so it was good to play that. It gave me the feel of playing matches in front of the British crowd, and then it was my goal to play the U.S. hard courts and play singles.”
He achieved that goal and then some against Watanuki, a qualifier who pushed Edmund deep into a second-set tiebreaker before the Brit was able to advance in straight sets.
“Today was just a good battle,” said Edmund. “In the first set, I felt like I was always having to work really hard, and never felt comfortably ahead. I just always had to fight, and I managed to break him in the first set and win it, but I was immediately a break down in the second, so I was always battling back from there. It was just a good reward for what I’ve been through in the past year and a half. I’m always learning, like this is only my fourth match, so when you’ve taken that time off, and every match is valuable because I get another experience under my belt.”
Edmund has frequently credited the support of his countrymen as he worked through physical therapy at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely former world No. 1 Andy Murray—who is in the midst of his own comeback from a hip resurfacing procedure that has, to this point, kept him from contesting for major titles—and Dan Evans, the Citi Open’s No. 16 seed and his next opponent.
For Edmund, it’s less an emotional encounter and instead another challenge of whether he can compete with the best in the world.
“He’s one of those players who has been at the higher ranking tiers for a while now, so it’ll be a good test for me to see where my body’s at, playing someone ranked in the Top 50. I haven’t played anyone like that since my injury, so it’ll be a test.
“It’s not so much about analyzing it too much: I’ve literally just got to go out there and do my best. That’s what I tried to do today, to get through it and learn what I can improve for the next one.”
The biggest test for Edmund will come at the end of the summer, when he makes a long-awaited return to Grand Slam singles action at the US Open.
“It’ll be great because it’s a Slam, and it’s where you want to be playing matches, at the biggest tournaments. Physically, it’ll be a test for me to see how I can hold up. It’s as hard as it gets playing in those conditions for best-of-five. I’ll just do my best, really, while I’m there, and see what I can do.
“It’s all the hard work to put myself in the position to be able to go and play the US Open, that’s the reward. At the same time, I’ve got to put myself out there in order to improve, expose yourself as safely as possible.”
In a career that has become about balancing risk and reward, Edmund finally feels ready to risk it all for the reward of reclaiming his sporting identity.
“The times I couldn’t play were extremely frustrating, but trying to get back was my entire focus. I played tennis my whole life so it’s not like I had other things going on; I was doing everything I could to get back because it was all I could do.”