Category: 2014


One On One With Rising Star Kyle Edmund

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.

The Petco Dance: Davis Cup Court Construction in San Diego

The Petco Dance: Davis Cup Court Construction in San Diego

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.

Edmund Serve

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?

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My tenth and final Player to Watch pick for 2014 is bound to confound, surprise and possibly annoy. After all, there are so many worthy candidates, but only one more can be chosen. 

So. Could it be Lucas Pouille, the 19-year-old French lad who gained almost 250 places in the ATP rankings this year and for a brief time was the only teen in the Top 200 alongside 2014 Player to Watch number seven, Nick Kyrgios?

"Come on, you know it should be me!"

“Oui oui oui, it’s me me me!”

Or is it possibly Filip Peliwo, the 19-year-old Canadian former junior #1 who rose over 250 places in this years rankings and is now training in Spain with Galo Blanco?

"It's me, right?"

“It’s me, right?”

Since former US college players who are older than 22 are now allowed under the Colette Lewis amendment of 2013, will it be Tennys Sandgren, the 22-year-old University of Tennessee standout whom we last saw winning the Champaign Challenger and improving his 2013 ranking by almost 50 places?

"Looking for the final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!"

“Lookin’ for your final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!”

Howzabout Karen Khachanov, the Russian 17-year-old who shocked the world by making the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 Kremlin Cup, beating Janko Tipsarevic along the way, and raising his ranking a mere 1,458 places this season?

"Da da da!"

Da da da!”

Or Karim Hossam, the 19-year-old Egyptian who climbed over 800 ranking rungs in 2013 and won four Egyptian Futures titles?

"If it's not me, I will clobber you!"

“If it’s not me, I will clobber you!”

The answers: Non. No. Nope. Nyet. And sorry, Karim.

Nay, this year’s final Player to Watch is someone for whom I’ve shamelessly bent my own arbitrary rules, including him even though he’s ranked inside the original “between #150 and #500 in the world” criterion I established for original PTW selection.

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Our ninth Player to Watch for 2014 is the third 17-year-old to be featured in these here pages. For all the (rightful) talk of the Top 100’s average age increasing to 27, and the recent difficulty for any teens to break through in the men’s ranks, this trio of 1996-borners* has really been Doing Things at the pro level this year.

And it’s not because they’re particularly physically precocious either, which makes their 2013 achievements all the more impressive — and, of course, bodes well for when/if they eventually are at their corporeal peak.

I chose Mr. Ninth Player in part because my picks have been too Eurocentric so far; six of the eight PTWs to date are Euros, with only one South American and one Australian. And, with the Christmas holidays growing ever nearer, it just seemed right that we have a Christian on the roster. #logic

Therefore, it is with much(o) gusto that I present my penultimate Player to Watch for 2014, Christian Garin.

Go For The Gusto

Go For The Gusto

Though many first learned of him through his unseeded red clay sweepage of Roland Garros this year, losing only one set and beating the 3rd, 4th and 8th seeds on his way to the title, the ATPeerers among us took notice of his fine play at the ATP 250 event in Viña del Mar, where he beat Dusan Lajovic and took a set from third seed Jeremy Chardy before succumbing in the second round**.

Hereafter follows some highlights of that Chardymatch in which you can learn, among other things, that Christian could use some more practice with his forehand return of serve:

But you can also see that, while not quite at a Gonzo level of gusto, Garin can also crank his favorite stroke up to a near-Fernando forehandular ferocity, which is something he may have picked up from his pal and legendary countryman, Fernando Gonzalez. 

Gonzo, by the way, has not ruled out a return to the courts for the South American games in Santiago next October, but only in doubles and only if he can play with Christian.

Garin and his Fer-iend

Garin and his Fer-iend

As all Players to Watch apparently must do in 2013***, Garin also practiced with Rafael Nadal at Viña (and additionally signed with Nadal’s manager, Carlos Costa, on the strength of his performance there – although whether from practice or match-play is unclear at this time), a heady experience for the then-16-year-old.  

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The eighth Player to Watch for 2014 is the fifth former ITF World Junior #1 to be featured. Not that junior success is a firm predictor of future success, of course, but it clearly was a main criterion for selection — even subconsciously — this year.

Now, some will accuse me of picking this player just because of the numerous and nearly irresistible punning opportunities he provides. (And those people would only be 43.6% correct.)

But really, we need to convince our inner twelve-year-olds to get beyond the first four letter of his surname and instead zero in on the fourth full year of his pro career, which is coming up next year. Besides, it’s not like he’s this guy:

Things Are Looking Up For Slovenian Basketballer Gregor Fucka

Things Are Looking Up For Slovenian Basketballer Gregor Fucka

So let’s just get over it and clear our minds and hearts to welcome my eighth Player to Watch for 2014, Mr. Marton Fucsovics. (Although, it should be said, his nickname of “Marci” is only marginally less make-funnable.)

Marci?

Marci?

A 2010 singles winner at the The Junior Championships, Wimbledon (defeating Ben Mitchell) as well as singles semifinalist in New York and Melbourne and a US Open boys doubles titlist, the 21-year-old Hungarian lad is finally coming on after his “lost year” of 2011 (in which, some say, he let his ITF-page professed love of girls and motorbikes get in the way of his tennis and training).

Hungary Like The Wolf

Hungary Like The Wolf

As a kid, he wanted to play basketball, but the 6’2” (188 cm) right-hander from the easy-to-pronounce city of Nyiregyhaza found a greater affinity with tennis as he got older. Then came the girls and motorbikes and – after his junior Slammin’ exploits — going the Gulbis route of, er, celebrating his success a bit too much, all to the tune of a 21/18 season at Futures level in 2011.

He actually did a meet-and-beat* with Mr. Gulbis in a five-set April-of-2012 Davis Cup match, but couldn’t seem to kick on from there, making his first Futures finals but finishing the ’12 campaign at #441 in the rankings (up 132 spots on the year).  Around that time, though, he finally recommitted himself and got back to working hard at the game he can play so well.

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Our lucky seventh Player to Watch for 2014 is so watchworthy that everyone and their grandmothers have already written a “one to watch” profile about him in the past few weeks. Indeed, his press has been so prevalent that I was almost dissuaded from including him on my PTW roster just because the choice is so ridiculously en vogue (and I’m so ridiculously anti-mainstream).

Alas, even though his profiles have become a dime a dozen, by putting in my own 2 cents I hope to make this profile worth at least 12¢. I guarantee mine will have more nonsense in it. #MyPromiseToYou

According to his first coach, he was a chubby kid who was a bit slow on the court. But his will to win also bore him results at an early age. At age 15, he made the Round of 16 at the 2011 Australian Open Junior Championships. He won a Grade 2 Juniors vs. Herkko Pollanen at the Dunlop Japan Open and had wins over Thiago Montiero and Nikola Milojevic in other ’11 tourneys.

Really Any Excuse To Include A Pic of Pollanen and His Pink Bjorn Borg Undies

Any Excuse To Include This Pollanen Pic In His Pink Borg Undies

He really began making a name for himself in 2012 on the doubles court, taking back-to-back dubs titles with partner Andrew Harris at the Roland Garros and Wimbledon Junior Championships, although he did post a win over PTW #6, Gianluigi Quinzion the singles court at Roehampton in between those two benchmarks (and, you know, also lose to Quinzi on the Wimby singles court. But that’s not important right now.)

So who is this mystery man? Well, you’ve really done very poorly if you’ve not guessed it’s none other than Nick Kyrgios (especially because his name’s just under the title).

Nick And Andy Use The Wimby Trophy As A Wishbone

Nick And Andy Use The Wimby Trophy As A Wishbone

Kyrgios made the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships, losing to Filip Peliwo, and followed up his junior Slam exploits with two junior tourney wins (beating PTW #1 Borna Coric in Osaka) and a slammin’ semifinal showing at the Australia F10 Futures, beating compatriot Luke Saville in the quarters.

This year, Kyrgios has nicked up the field in a way that has boys and pros alike licking their wounds, going 21/2 in the juniors and 27/9 in the seniors for an overall winning percentage of over 81%.

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