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I'm used to the intense heat on big stage, says Edmund

Big hit: Kyle Edmund goes through the paces in training ahead of his clash with Novak Djokovic
Big hit: Kyle Edmund goes through the paces in training ahead of his clash with Novak Djokovic

By Paul Newman

Kyle Edmund is hoping that the experience of playing on some of the world's biggest stages will stand him in good stead when he plays the biggest match of his Wimbledon career today.

The 23-year-old Briton will face Novak Djokovic, three times a champion at the All England Club, when he plays in the third round for the first time.

Edmund, nevertheless, has become used to playing in big matches. The World No.17, who is the last British player left in singles competition here, played in the semi-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year, has reached the fourth round of the US Open and the third round of the French Open and has played in a Davis Cup final.

"As you play more and more matches on courts like that, you feel a little bit more comfortable with it," Edmund said. "You learn about yourself each time you go out there, whether you're playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium (in New York), Centre Court or Rod Laver Arena (in Melbourne).

"Playing twice on Rod Laver Arena helped me at the start of this year. I had good experiences there in terms of winning and playing in the semi-final of a Slam. Each time you play on those courts I think it helps."

Asked about playing on Centre Court, Edmund said: "It's always an amazing experience, playing in the home of tennis. There have been so many epic matches on there, countless legends playing on those courts. Just getting the opportunity to play there is a massive privilege.

"You go from being a little kid dreaming of it and when it becomes reality, sometimes it can be a bit surreal. At the end of the day it's my job. You have to believe in yourself. There's a reason why you're there.

"You want to be on that stage. That's why you put in all the hard work and the countless hours and stuff like that, to put yourself in situations like that, playing the best in the world on the biggest stage. That's where you want to be.

"At the same time it's not like you put all your eggs in that basket, like it's the only opportunity you'll ever get. There will be more opportunities. If you think of it as the biggest thing ever, you put too much pressure on yourself, you don't perform. It's a great occasion, but it is still just a tennis match. Win or lose, you try your best. That's all you can ask of yourself."

Djokovic, whose form has been picking up after a relatively barren spell, beat Edmund in their first three meetings and dropped only seven games against him in the fourth round of the US Open two summers ago. Edmund, however, won their fourth and most recent encounter on clay in Madrid two months ago.

"Playing Djokovic is always tough," Edmund insisted. "When you beat someone, it always gives you that confidence, the belief that you can beat them. I remember playing reasonably well that day. It was a good thing for me mentally.

"He's obviously playing well, winning both his matches here pretty comfortably. But we'll see. Every match is different. He's one of the best players in the world, one of the best players of all time. There's always that massive respect."

Asked how different it would be to play Djokovic on grass, Edmund said: "The court's obviously a little bit quicker. Movement's a big difference comparing the altitude in Madrid to here. It's a tough one to really say until I get out there and feel the match, the rhythm of it."

Edmund expects some longer rallies than he had faced in his second match against the American Bradley Klahn.

"Novak obviously likes to be at the back of the court, using his strengths, which is movement and out-manoeuvring players," he said."There are so many things that Novak does so well. He's one of the best movers in the game."

Djokovic said he had been very impressed by Edmund.

"Kyle is very devoted," the former World No.1 said. "He has very good ethics, he's a hard worker, and he puts in the hours necessary on the court and in the gym to get himself into the best possible shape.

"He's a top-20 player. He's going towards the top 10. He won against me this year in Madrid. He won against (Grigor) Dimitrov. He reached the semis of the Australian Open. He certainly has the capacity and the quality to compete at the highest level.

"He's a hometown favourite now that (Andy) Murray is not here. There's a lot of expectation and pressure on his back, but he's handling it pretty well so far."

Belfast Telegraph


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