Kyle Edmund did more than double his annual earnings in one night when he beat Andy Murray in the inaugural Tie Break Tens exhibition event at the Royal Albert Hall – he drew ringing endorsements from the loser, John McEnroe and Tim Henman.
McEnroe, the 56-year-old former world No1 and Wimbledon favourite, who lost both his matches in the first-to-10 round-robin format in front of a packed arena, said the 20-year-old from Beverley was in a group of young players who might even break into the top four in the world.
McEnroe was impressed with the young prospect’s big game, and remarked later: “I liked what I saw, he’s made some great progress. He’s a better athlete than I thought, his backhand was more solid. He’s got a huge forehand, he pops that serve and he rose to the occasion. He’s got huge upside.”
Beforehand, McEnroe said of the state of the game: “There seems to be this gap where the opening would appear to be [for] even younger players [to challenge the big four]. Someone’s going to pop out. One of these Kyle Edmunds of the world is going to come out, and suddenly you’re going to see this guy at No4 in the world in a year. Whether that’s one of four or five players, that’s the one we’re not sure about. But that’s my prediction.”
Edmund, hovering around the top 100 in the world, beat Murray 10-7 in the final of the six-man tournament, and the world No2, who led debutant Edmund and the rest of the Great Britain team to victory in the Davis Cup final in Ghent last weekend, was full of praise afterwards.
“He’s playing really well just now, he’s made some big improvements this year, but there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done if he wants to keep getting better,” Murray said. “To go from 200 to 100 is tough, to get from 100 to 50 is harder, even from 50 to 40 – it starts to get much, much harder as you move up the rankings, but provided he keeps working hard and pushing himself, there’s no reason why he can’t get up there.”
Edmund won $250,000 (£165,000) for winning the tournament, having won $205,654 in 2015, and $410,583 in his whole career.
Sky showed the tournament live and, although the earlier matches lacked urgency as the veterans McEnroe, Xavier Malisse and Tim Henman provided more light moments than full-blazing competitiveness, the final was a tense, hard-fought shootout.
Edmund’s progress is even ahead of Henman’s at the same stage of his career. Edmund broke into the top 100 in the world aged 20, while at the same age the four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist had just reached 150. He was a year older than Edmund by the time he made that breakthrough, and was inside the top 50 two months before his 22nd birthday.
Henman said: “He’s done fantastically well this year to get into the top 100 for the first time, and he’s only just outside now. He’s had a really sustained period of good tennis and hard work. This is just scratching the surface for him.
“Top 100 is always a big psychological barrier. Now he can push on. He just needs to keep giving himself opportunities in the tournaments. If he can get his ranking a little bit higher he’ll get into the main tour events more regularly, there’ll be more points on offer. I don’t think it will be long before he’s knocking on the door of the top 50.”