Saturday, September 2, 2017

US Open: Kyle Edmund’s injury update

The uncertainty that has flooded through the men’s draw from the moment Andy Murray withdrew before a ball was struck – joining Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka as the stellar absentees – suggested this US Open would be remembered as the tournament of opportunities. It has been that: but lost, rather than taken.

It was the saddest of sights on Friday watching Kyle Edmund gripped by a back spasm halfway through his 10th match in a fortnight, back on the Arthur Ashe Stadium he shared with Djokovic a year ago and where the 22-year-old would now leave with the applause for his vibrant young opponent, Denis Shapovalov, ringing in his ears.

Before they stepped on to the main court here, Edmund, four years older than the Canadian teenager and riding an encouraging wave of form, had every reason to believe he would finally get to know what Murray felt like as a Briton at the end of the first week of a slam: on his own but powering towards the fourth round, and maybe beyond, with confidence.

Yet, just as the heavy weight of the Tour had finally cut Murray down, his hip aching as much as his spirit, Edmund too succumbed to circumstances beyond his control. So bemused was he when pain rippled through his upper vertebrae when he was 3-2 up in the third and serving that no amount of encouragement from the on-court physio could convince him he could continue.

He did, until the start of the fourth but, as he said later: “It’s a tough thing to go on a centre court, the biggest court in the world and just feel a bit helpless. What do I do? Do you carry on to the end? But you just go through the motions and it’s a bit of a sorry state. You don’t want to pull out straightaway. You want to say things are going to get better. But I just thought, well, am I going to win two more sets like this?”

That is the perennial dilemma for players. They are all carrying injuries of varying seriousness, they all want to win, some more than others, and they all know it is impossible to win every match. Even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have been scared witless here, cannot do it.

So, strip out the genius from the equation, park the legends to one side, and for the rest, it is all about opportunities. And that is where we came in: Edmund – and every other bright-eyed contender – knew this Open could provide them with the chance they have all been pretty much denied since they started playing.

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It is nearly always about Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka. Very rarely does anyone else get a chance at the end of a slam to test themselves at the ultimate level. They have to settle for the sort of exit Edmund endured, near tears and devastated because his body, rather than his tennis, had let him down.