TENNIS

Kyle Edmund returns to Washington after 21 months away | ATP tour

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It’s a long road from the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon to the qualifying rounds of the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Winnipeg, Canada. But after three knee surgeries and nearly two years away from the world of professional tennis, Kyle Edmund is just happy to be back on the court anytime, anywhere.

After returning to the field in singles action last week at Challenger level, this week the former Briton in the world No. 14 will play his first singles match at tour level since October 2020 in Vienna, when he featured at the Citi Open in Washington, DC.

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“It’s extremely rewarding to be back,” said the 27-year-old. “There were long stretches where I couldn’t see when I would be back. There were times when there was no progression, no improvement. But I was ready to exhaust all possibilities to come back. I didn’t take a racquet for five or six months. I just wanted to play tennis.

Edmund returned to touring playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon in June. He said being back with his peers and getting a sense of the professional tennis environment again was a blessing.

“I needed it, it had been so long,” Edmund said of his return to the All England Club. “To find an idea, the preparation for the match day and to feel those nerves again.

“Then playing the Challenger… it was just about being back on the court in singles. I didn’t care where I played. It was my first singles match in so long. It wasn’t about results, it was about playing a game and learning where I was. It was a big checkbox. I played three games in a week and had a few wins, so that was a bonus. Lots of positives to take away. »

Kyle Edmond”
Kyle Edmund won the 2020 New York Open.

Edmund started noticing pain in his left knee in 2018, but lived with it until November 2020 when he decided to go under the knife, never considering it would be the first of three surgeries (also March 2021 and May 2022) which would sideline him from singles action for 20 months. “The fact that it took three surgeries showed that it was complicated and not something easy to fix,” he said.

Edmund’s compatriot Andy Murray, who knows a thing or two about comebacks after returning to the ATP Tour with a metal hip, was asked at the Citi Open on Saturday about the various physical and mental challenges Edmund would face.

“I think one of the hardest things about when you’ve been injured for a while is pushing yourself hard enough in training to test your body and prepare your body to play games because that you don’t want to hurt yourself in training,” Murray said of finding the right balance. “You can kind of go back to match play a little undercooked too because you just didn’t push your body hard enough in practices.”

Murray also spoke about the need to remain patient and focus on long-term goals rather than counting wins and losses in the first few weeks of a comeback. Edmund says a lot of wisdom can be found in Murray’s words, noting that knowing how hard to push on the training ground can be difficult.

“You have to be realistic after so much free time. You can’t kill it every day,” said Edmund, who has a protected Pepperstone ATP ranking of 48. “But it’s the pinnacle of the men’s game and you can’t really hold back.

“For me, I only wanted to get back on the match pitch when I felt like I could be as ready as possible. I know my first few games won’t be perfect, but I have to get out there and test the waters.

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Kyle Edmund beat Gael Monfils in Antwerp in 2018 to win his first ATP Tour title.

Limited by what he could physically do during his enforced break, Edmund bought himself a camera and spent time photographing everyday life near his home, including trees and birds. He also taught himself the basics of photo editing to improve his images.

His new hobby was an escape from the mundane rehab regimen, which he admitted had taken a mental toll. “There was nothing to do when you woke up. I didn’t appreciate that side,” he said. But the winner of 117 games at tour level and two titles in Antwerp (2018) and New York (2020), drew inspiration from Murray’s own comeback after two hip surgeries.

“When you see what Andy has been through with his various surgeries and his downtime, you can see how he had to work extremely hard to come back and go through quite a bit of pain. I found that with this type of injury you had to have so much self-motivation because you could just put it away when you were out for 20 months and three surgeries. If you don’t want it, don’t bother with the hard work. The reward is to be back on the pitch and enjoy it as much as possible.

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“It showed me that I liked the game. If I didn’t like it, it would have been easy to walk away. There were plenty of opportunities to do that.”

Choosing not to play qualifying at the ATP Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati, this week’s ATP 500 in Washington will be its biggest event leading up to the US Open. (He’ll also play another Challenger and the Winston-Salem Open.) So what will success look like in the weeks to come?

“Coming back from the trip feeling like I haven’t had a lot of physical downtime,” Edmund said. “I can handle playing bad tennis, but physically it would be nice to say I played five tournaments in eight weeks, the knee was tested and it responded well. I would be happy with that.

“Naturally I would like results in that, but this stint is not so much about results. I can’t get results if I’m not on the circuit regularly.

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