Ahead of his semifinal match on Saturday versus Isak Arvidsson, I caught up with my third Player to Watch for 2014, 19-year-old British up-and-comer Kyle Edmund, at the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, FL. We talked about his selection for the upcoming Davis Cup clash with the United States. Also: tennis drills, lessons learned and life on the road.
As ever, he has a lot of intelligent things to say.
Challenger Tennis: Congrats on your Davis Cup selection, what is this — the third team for you?
Edmund: Thanks. Yeah, the other two, I wasn’t in the squad or team. I was just there as like a hitter. So that was obviously against Russia and Croatia, but this is the first time I’ve actually been named on the team, which is a great feeling for me. The only one who’s definitely gonna play is Andy [Murray], so the other spots are still sort of open to play.
Obviously, it’s Dom Inglot and Colin Fleming for the doubles, and then it’s between me and James Ward for singles. So the playing spots are still not 100 percent, but to be there and for Great Britain to be in the World Group — I think the last time we won a World Group match was like 1980-something, so it’s a long time. To be there is definitely going to be a great experience.
Challenger Tennis: For sure. Have you seen pictures of the court construction as it’s being laid down in Petco Park?
Edmund: Yeah, I have, I’ve seen a few. The last one I saw they actually did half the court, I think. I saw half the clay court — obviously they have to do the other half — but it looked really good. To be inside a baseball stadium on a tennis court, I mean, the stage is set to be really exciting and amazing.
Challenger Tennis: So are you here by yourself now or is there anyone from your team with you?
Edmund: I’m here with my coach, my tennis coach, and also with my fitness trainer. But they’re also involved, they’re actually fitness trainer for the Davis Cup, and my coach is a Davis Cup coach, so it works really well. They’re here, and then tomorrow — win or lose — we’re gonna go tomorrow night to San Diego.
So it works really well, them being here helping me and then traveling over to meet the team there.
Challenger Tennis: I know you don’t like specific ranking targets, but what specific drills are you doing to maybe help with footwork or focus and the things you want to improve?
Edmund: I’ve been with my coach two and a half years now, and definitely being with him, we’ve done a lot of what we like to call our “core drills” — drills that make me tick, make me feel good and help my game.
If I know that these drills are working well, then I know I’ll play pretty well. And it’s really basic stuff. It’s just like crosscourts, but then if I get a short ball I’ll come to the net, trying to be offensive.
Recently, we’ve done a lot of movement, so we’ll do like “two-two” it’s called, where he sends one corner, I’ll hit two forehands and two backhands and two forehands and keep going for like two minutes. But it obviously gets quite physical, side to side. And then we do just lines.
So for the first part of the session, we do a lot of drilling, a lot of numbers almost, get a lot of balls in play and then start maybe doing some more shorter stuff but it’s more aggressive. I like to use my forehand, so we’ll do a lot of stuff working my forehand, coming forward. And then at the end of the session we’ll do serve and return.
It’s a bit different now, playing tournaments; you don’t do long hours on the practice court. But certainly when I was training with Andy, we were doing three hours on court each day.
Challenger Tennis: So, basically, all your on-court time is with specific drills in mind as opposed to just hitting.
Edmund: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m not going to do something that I don’t feel is relevant to me.
Challenger Tennis: You’ve said a successful tournament is one that you take something away from, and learning something is the main thing. Is there a specific match last year where you learned the most, and maybe what specifically did you learn?
Edmund: At my age, and where the game’s at now, the average age is quite high. I’m 19, so it’s important, I suppose, from this young age… development is a lot more important at this time. And doing the right things possible to make yourself the best player you can be.
Obviously results are important, to get your ranking up, it’s important you keep winning and stuff. But even now, even though I won last week [at the USA F2 in Sunrise], and semis this week, what I’ve taken away is gonna help me in the future — what I did to prepare, what my mindset’s like.
And also when you lose, you can look back and say, “What did I do?” or “Maybe I could’ve done that better.” And then try and improve from that.
Challenger Tennis: I specifically write about life on the Challenger and Futures tours, and I’m wondering if there’s any big difference you see in the kinds of places that you play, transitioning from juniors, to Futures and Challengers. Are they more far-flung kind of areas that you’re playing, or is it the same?
Edmund: The environment definitely when you play the higher junior tournaments, the environment going from the higher junior tournaments to the Futures, is different. There’s not as many people watching, and it’s definitely not I think you’d say a nicer area, or something like that.
This tournament, actually, in Weston is probably the best Futures I’ve ever been to. So this week you’re really lucky. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Challenger was played here, that’s how good it is for sure.
The difference in terms of tennis playing is it’s more physical. I remember when I first did the step [up from juniors], I said straight away that it’s physically more demanding. They don’t give away as many cheap points, and you have to work your points a lot harder.
I’ve been playing maybe two years properly on the senior tour, and you just get used to it more. And now I’m trying to go up to the challengers and even the tour level — I’ve been playing some tour matches — I’ve had a taste of what it’s like, and I know what’s it like. So it’s just trying to play like that every day — in practice, matches — and get used to it.
Challenger Tennis: Do you have a favorite Futures or Challenger destination that you’ve stopped at?
Edmund: My schedule’s been a lot in America, in Florida. We come here a lot. I like playing on the American clay, and also we just find it really easy here, the environment. America’s got everything — good restaurants, good food, good hotels — so you don’t have to worry about anything else, and you can just go out and play tennis.
The culture, say, in Europe’s a little bit different to America, but we like it here. I’m going to San Diego next week, then going back to England, but then I’m coming back over here for five, six weeks to play some more tournaments. So I’ve been in America quite a bit recently.
Challenger Tennis: What’s the hardest part of traveling and the most fun part about traveling for you?
Edmund: Definitely the hardest part is being away from your personal side of life, as in family and friends and stuff like that. You don’t see them as much, and with the time difference, to stay in contact is not as consistent.
But traveling is exciting, I find. You get to see the world. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to quite a few places — South America, Australia, Asia, American and most of Europe. So yeah, it’s definitely fun. It’s tough at times, but in the long term you always look back and say, “Yeah, I like to do what I’m doing.”
I wouldn’t change it for anything.