Davis Cup: How far can Britain's Kyle Edmund rise?

By Russell FullerBBC tennis correspondent in Belgrade
Edmund sends GB into Davis Cup semi-final

"By the time he's 22, 23 or 24 I think he will be a top-10 player," said captain Leon Smith, shortly after Kyle Edmund had helped Britain through to the Davis Cup semi-finals.

Edmund, Britain's number one player in the tie, beat Serbia's Dusan Lajovic in straight sets in Belgrade on Sunday in only his second Davis Cup appearance.

The first had been memorable. The 21-year-old allowed David Goffin only four games in the opening two sets of the first rubber of last year's final in Ghent. The next three sets went convincingly Belgium's way as Edmund started cramping, but his forehand left quite an impression on the Belgian.

The Briton also made his mark against world number one Novak Djokovic when the two met in the second round of the Miami Masters in March. The Serb said then that Edmund had the potential to get to the top of the men's game.

You would expect a diplomat like Djokovic to say nice things about a British player to the British media, but the power and composure with which Edmund played in Belgrade makes you re-assess what might be possible in future.

On the eve of Edmund's 19th birthday, I remember Smith telling me the statistics suggested he was on track to peak somewhere between 50 and 100 in the rankings - as his junior career had promised he might.

There has unquestionably been a spike in expectations over the past twelve months - but the forehand remains his signature shot.

"In terms of pace and what he can do with it, it is in the top five of the world as an isolated shot," former Davis Cup player Jamie Baker told BBC Sport.

Kyle Edmund factfile
Age: 21
Current ATP singles ranking: 67
Turned pro: 2012
Height: 6ft 2in
Plays: Right-handed, two-handed backhand
Career prize money: £555,768 ($734,378)

John Lloyd, who was a Davis Cup finalist as a player and then a captain, was struck by the "total faith" Edmund has in his forehand. He was also impressed by his backhand - which is starting to look very secure.

"I thought he moved very well," Lloyd said. "When I've seen him in the past I thought his movement could be the difference in him getting to the top. But his defensive movement, in particular, has been fabulous for the whole tie."

Edmund's serve was not as potent as it can be over the weekend, and yet he did not drop a set. There were signs he was starting to cramp a little in the third set of Sunday's match against Lajovic, which is something Edmund and his team are trying to address.

He also suffered cramp against Goffin in last November's final, and then again at the Australian Open - when he was affected as early as the third set of a five-set defeat by Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur in 35C heat in Melbourne. It seems to be caused by tension, which may well be alleviated as he grows in experience.

Kyle Edmund (left) and GB captain Leon Smith
"Kyle's getting better and better and physically he's so much stronger this year." - Leon Smith

Edmund has developed a handy knack of halving his ranking every year. From about 400 at the end of 2013, to about 200 twelve months later. He was then ranked 100 at the end of last year and is on track to be a top-50 player by the time the year is out. He currently stands at 67, but that is a number which his Davis Cup captain thinks will soon be past its sell-by date.

"He's still got a lot of development to do physically and with his tennis," Smith said.

"That's the good thing about him, he's obviously got some unbelievable raw tools - that forehand is just an unbelievable shot - but the rest of his game is getting better.

"He's still going to get a lot more out of his serve as the years go on. His backhand has improved already a lot; his net game can keep getting better and of course he will get more robust physically."

He also has a three-time Grand Slam champion as a sounding board and inspiration. Edmund says he did not speak much to Andy Murray over the weekend, but his achievements, standards and attention to detail speak for themselves.

Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund
Andy Murray (left) now has able support in the singles in the form of Kyle Edmund

Edmund has also had the opportunity to see it for himself first hand.

Twice he has found himself in Miami for pre-season training - as a guest in Murray's apartment - and carrying out the same hitting, fitness and weight training drills as the world number two.

Edmund's rise is just one of the reasons Britain will start September's semi-final with Argentina as favourites.

With Inglot's first Davis Cup win sandwiched in between Edmund's first two wins for his country, future ties should no longer revolve around whether Andy Murray can play and win three matches in a weekend.


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