At the risk of sounding smug and saying ‘I told you so’, I have to point out that I am by far not the only person to have made the claim that Kyle Edmund ‘would be a top ATP player’, when I first saw him at aged 15. I made a similar claim (as did many) about Andy Murray when I first saw him aged 13.
I first met Kyle in Portugal in 2010, where I had a team from SotoTennis Academy at the G4 ITF events during the late summer. These events are traditionally strong and provide lots of competitive opportunity for many due to large draw sizes and they are comfortable events to play.
From the word ‘Go’, Kyle stood out to me on that trip. And this was before I saw him hit a tennis ball. ‘Why?’ many people have asked over the years. The same things stood out to me with Andy Murray as a youngster as with Kyle:
- Incredibly single minded
Kyle, aged 15, would join in the banter and play mini golf with the group each day, but as the other boys continued the ‘banter’ (which often led to ill discipline and an unprepared mind), Kyle seemed to know exactly when to take himself away from the others and get his mind ready for the primary job he was there for: to win tennis matches.
- A strong inner belief
I was lucky enough to share a court with a young Andy Murray on a few occasions. On the Doubles court at an ITF Pro Circuit event, as he was on his rise to becoming an international superstar, Andy shouted out: ‘I can’t believe I’m losing to these guys’. Andy was 17 at the time and he was playing myself and David Sherwood. We were British 1&2 Doubles players at the time; we had beaten Andy and his partner the previous 2 weeks. He was right though: it wasn’t a brat-ish cry, it came from deep within. He knew he was better (he was!) and the frustration was fuelled by this knowledge.
Kyle was the same but in a very different way. He was always very assured on the court and looked like he had a belief that said ‘how high will I get as an ATP player?’ Rather than, ‘will I become an ATP player?’
And I know over the last couple of years he has worked hard on installing even more belief, taking himself from an extremely highly respected player who is top 50 in the world, to the Grand Slam contender we see before our eyes today. I pick this up from the interviews and the way in which he speaks, as well as from his outward positivity that shines through on the court (which maybe goes against his personality, but has made a noticeable difference). Well done to the team around him for this.
- A love of the game
Playing it. Watching it. Talking about it. Both Kyle and Andy are ‘tennis geeks’. It is the number one thing in their life and they know everything there is to know about it, no distractions, as this is their passion.
This is the fuel that brings together so many other areas in this sport, whether it is developing mental or physical fitness, or whether it is developing a stronger first serve, as Kyle has done in the off season. The motivation is fuelled by the obsession to be the best they can be in the sport that they love.
My ‘gut feeling’ on both Andy and Kyle had nothing to do with how they hit the ball (granted this is done extremely well by both), but more so from the things that we don’t see on the TV and the daily way they live their life because of the points above.
This result this week for Kyle has not happened by chance. It reflects many hours and the work of many great, committed people, day-in-day-out. Tennis doesn’t lie.
Now I hope we can celebrate an even bigger achievement this week and wish Kyle and his team all the very best for Thursday and the remainder of 2018.
What I know for sure is that Kyle will build on this week, as he has built up a strong structure and core to his work, which allows him to have a sustainable career. I don’t see a Sloane Stephens 0-7 after winning the US Open back in 2017. Tennis is his life.
Good luck Kedders and we will see you in Marbella next week for the Davis Cup – we are behind you all the way!
Dan and all of #teamsoto
Director, SotoTennis Academy
Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain