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Kyle Edmund's bid to fill Murray's shoes off to a flyer

By Paul Newman

The burden of being Britain's highest ranked singles player appeared to sit comfortably on Kyle Edmund's shoulders here yesterday as the world No 17 eased into the second round with an emphatic 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Australia's Alex Bolt.

While Andy Murray's continuing hip problems have seen Edmund become accustomed to being his country's main hope in the men's singles at Grand Slam events, this is the first time he has been the highest ranked Briton here.

It was also Edmund's first appearance on Court One in a singles match, but the 23-year-old looked confident from the start. He might have won in less than an hour and 43 minutes but for a minor slump which saw his opponent fail to serve out for the third set.

"I'm really happy to get through the first round," Edmund said afterwards.

"There's always a long preparation, lots of build-up, lots of things in your head, excitement and anticipation. You've obviously got the media and all that stuff to do, so I'm very happy to have got the first round out of the way and played well."

Bolt, it has to be said, was the perfect opponent. The 25-year-old Australian was one of the most inexperienced players in this week's 128-man draw and had not won a tour-level match until last month.

This was the world No 205's Wimbledon debut following his three victories in qualifying last week. He had lost in the first round on both his previous appearances in Grand Slam tournaments, at the Australian Open in 2017 and 2018, and he had never previously met any opponent ranked in the world's top 50.

Edmund, nevertheless, is also relatively inexperienced as far as Wimbledon is concerned. He may have reached the semi-finals of this year's Australian Open, but in his five previous appearances here he had only won one match. That was against his fellow Briton, Alex Ward, the world No 869, 12 months ago.

Edmund is also feeling the focus away from the courts, with more fans stopping him on the street for selfies.

"It does happen a little bit more," he said. "It's not like I'm a big deal or anything like that. A few more selfies, autographs, especially around this time of year.

"It's a good thing. If I see someone that I like to look at on TV, in sport and stuff, I always want to have a chat to them, take a picture. It's only a little bit more. It's not like it's crazy or anything."

This match was less about Edmund's sledgehammer forehand than the all-round improvements he has made over the past 12 months, to his serve, his backhand and especially his movement.

Bolt did not seem to offer much threat on paper, but his final qualifying victory over countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis was a result to make people take note. He looked out of his depth initially against Edmund, who broke serve immediately and did not drop a point on his first serve or face a break point throughout the first two sets.

The third set was trickier, with Bolt serving for the set and forcing a set point, but Edmund saved it and then broke again before clinching his fourth game in a row to seal victory, which he celebrated with a leaping twirl.

It is only the second match Edmund has ever won at Wimbledon and he will be favoured to reach the third round for the first time with another qualifier, American Bradley Klahn, up next.

Edmund was happy with his display, and especially pleased to finish in plenty of time to watch England face Colombia at the World Cup.

He said: "The performance was good. You always want to do well at Wimbledon. There's that build-up period where there's always talking about it, how you're feeling, are you confident? When the time comes, it's about producing.

"Today was a great experience for me being out on Number One Court. I don't know if they did it intentionally, but the organisers put the Brits on first up on the schedule in time to watch the football, which is great."

Jay Clarke admitted it will take time to see the positives after coming agonisingly close to his first Wimbledon victory.

The 19-year-old wild card from Derby pushed former top-10 player Ernests Gulbis to five sets but was eventually beaten 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7/3) 3-6 6-4.

Clarke more than held his own and, after fighting back impressively from two sets to one down to level, he matched Gulbis right up until the Latvian, who defeated Juan Martin del Potro here last year, broke for 5-4 in the decider and served it out.

Clarke said: "There will be a lot of positives. It's tough to see them right now. But when I look back, maybe in two, three days' time, I'm sure I'll take some stuff."

Clarke has spoken out about the racist abuse he regularly suffers on social media.

"I hope I inspire people," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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