"Grateful" Edmund wins in return after 21 months

August 1, 2022 03:53 PM

By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)

Although Kyle Edmund never seriously considered retiring as a player, the former British No.1 admits that his mind wandered. Edmund underwent knee surgery in November 2020. Then again in March 2021. And once more this past May.

“There was a long period where I couldn’t see when I was going to be back,” Edmund conceded during a candid conversation Sunday. “Was it going to be a few months? A year? Or even two years? There was no progression, no improvement in my physical status or my injury, so that was hard.”

Having played through a knee issue that began in 2018, Edmund decided to undergo surgery two years later. The rehab was lengthy and not without setbacks. It ultimately kept Edmund from playing Tour-level singles for 21 months.

He finally returned Monday at the Citi Open for his first match since October 2020.

“It’s extremely rewarding to be back here,” said Edmund, who outlasted qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6(8) in the opening match on John Harris Court.

“Practicing with all the players, feeling the tournament intensity again and the routines that go with it… For so long, I was just wanting to get back for the love of the game. So right now, I’m just grateful I’m back playing tennis. I’m enjoying being here.”

GettyImages-1267565009Edmund’s first-round win was also especially rewarding as he rallied from a break down in the second set and later saved a set point in the tiebreaker. He ultimately prevailed in just over two hours.

“I’m getting better, but it’s still so early on,” Edmund said in an on-court interview following his first Tour-level win in exactly 700 days.

“This is how you build momentum- getting through matches when maybe you’re not quite at your best,” he said. “But just being back playing in these types of atmospheres and feeling pressure- I didn’t have that for 20 months- so, it’s nice to feel it again.”

"It certainly showed me that I love the game"

Early in his rehab process, Edmund went about five-to-six months without even lifting a racquet. He made the most of the additional time with his family and picked up a new hobby in photography. But inside, the competitive juices and the passion for the sport never left. He missed the preparation, the grind and the tournament-week routines.

“It certainly showed me that I love the game and that I want to play,” he said. “When I was forced not to have it, if I didn’t really love it or want to be hungry to play, I think it would have been easy to walk away from it because there were plenty of opportunities to walk away from playing.

“But I just found with this type of injury you have to have so much self-motivation, because if you don’t, you could just pack it in. When you’re out for literally 20 months, going through three surgeries, you have to have some self-motivation, and self-want to do it. Otherwise, don’t bother.”

In June, Edmund reached a significant benchmark when he played mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Although he and partner Olivia Nicholls didn’t advance past the first round, Edmund was happy to again be in a familiar milieu- in a tournament environment catching up and talking shop with several of his longtime colleagues on Tour.

Last week his comeback checked another box as he navigated through three matches at Challenger event in Winnipeg, Canada.

Fellow Brit Andy Murray, who missed significant time on Tour in 2018 and 2019, has empathy for Edmund and his bid to return to form. He also offered some advice, suggesting Edmund will have to patient.

“You can't expect to be out for 20 months and come back and play at the level that you were at, but your mind still remembers you playing at that level,” Murray said.

“When you lose in a challenger, like Kyle lost last week, that's frustrating when he's used to being in like the semifinals of a major. You're starting from a very low level again. You need time and patience to build all of those things back up. It's not easy, but it's a worthwhile journey to go through. You learn a lot on it, that's for sure.”

"Being back on Tour, week-in and week-out is the priority"

Edmund’s journey continues Tuesday with a second-round match against countryman and No.16 seed Daniel Evans. Edmund and Evans will be the first match of the day (12 p.m.) on John Harris Court.

Later this month, Edmund will compete in another challenger before using his protected ranking for entry into Winston-Salem and the U.S. Open.

What would constitute a successful return over the next few weeks?

“Just to come away at the end of the U.S. Open-and have a positive feeling that I didn’t have many bad days physically,” Edmund said.

“I can play bad tennis, I can deal with that because it’s been a long time and I don’t expect to play my best. But physically it would be nice to come away with a positive outlook saying I played five tournaments, was on the road for eight weeks, the knee was tested a lot because of the level of tennis and the physicality and if it responds well, I’ll be happy with that. Naturally, yeah I want some results thrown in there, but just being back on the Tour week in, week out, is more the priority.”