On a gorgeous, 70 degree day with just the hint of a cooling breeze, the prospect of a final between one of tennis’s most touted up-and-comers and a wily, former Top 100 veteran promised much. And, for two-thirds of it anyway, 19-year-old Kyle Edmund and 31-year-old Victor Crivoi delivered on that promise.
The two had met almost exactly one year ago, with the pair splitting two tight sets before the elder Romanian cruised to victory in a lopsided final frame. So the question was: how much difference would a year make, with the younger Brit having risen about 200 spots in the rankings in that time? The answer, surprisingly, turned out to be: not much.
From an Edmundian perspective, the match unfolded in opposite fashion from his semifinal win against Isak Arvidsson — rather than having to work his fearsome forehand into a good groove, he started out firing on target early and often. And then it started going awry.
But at the outset, the Brit’s favorite shot was working well, and he claimed the first break of the match with an off forehand winner that was anything but off, eliciting a gasp from one of the patrons as he secured a *2-0 first set lead.
But he wasn’t done there. After saving a break point by forcing a Crivoi forehand error, the hulking English teen grabbed game point with an inside-in blast that caused a young father standing courtside to issue forth an impromptu, under-breath review: “wow!”
Wow indeed. He held for 3-0*. (Kyle, not the father.)
The fourth game featured a bit of a mild controversy, as the 31-year-old veteran pulled a 0-15 backhand crosscourt wide, only to walk up the sideline and point to a mark from Edmund’s previous shot that he claimed was wide.
After examining the mark, the chair umpire reversed his original call, giving the point to Crivoi instead. Kyle rightly pointed out that Crivoi had played on and hadn’t stopped the point to challenge where his opponent’s ball had landed. Nevertheless, the point was deemed in the Romanian’s favor, and he held to 30 to join Edmund on the scoreboard.
The next two games just seemed like the 6’4” Beverley boy was showing off; two aces and two forehand winners to hold for 4-1*, then another three forehand finishings to break for *5-1. This had all the makings of a rout, and Edmund had 10 outright forehand winners in the first five games in addition to the assorted times he’d forced his foe into errors from that wing.
But the top-seeded Crivoi, currently ranked #232 but with a career high of #75 in 2009, was not to be finished off so easily. A wily tactician, he began exploiting Kyle’s ad-court shading by deliberately playing backhands down-the-line into Edmund’s forehand corner, catching him out and stretching him wide, forcing errors. Two such rallies, as well as two forehand miscues from the Brit, contributed to Crivoi getting one of the breaks back.
With Edmund’s initially reliable forehand leaking errors, and Victor’s variance of the rally patterns (including a few drop shots creeping into the mix), the 31-year-old chiseled his way back to level in the 1st set at 5-all. Serves were held, and a tiebreak undertaken.
In the buster, the Brit ceded a mini-break with a netted backhand volley (a shot that plagued him the few times he attempted it), and went down 0-2*, only to reel off the final seven points for a — any guesses? That’s right! — 7-2 TB win. The last three points went: Edmund down-the-line forehand winner, Edmund service winner, Edmund forehand crosscourt winner. Winner winner, chicken dinner.