MELBOURNE, Australia — If anyone ever doubted that Kyle Edmund has what it takes to cut it at the top level, then they will be sure now.
In brutal conditions in Melbourne on Friday, the 23-year-old showed enormous physical and mental strength as he battled past Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 7-6, 3-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open, equalling his best ever performance at a Grand Slam.
It was an enormous effort in temperatures that reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenhreit), especially evident in the second game of the fourth set when he finally broke Basilashvili on his eighth break point after an epic battle that lasted 19 minutes, 59 seconds.
The recuperating Andy Murray, watching in the middle of the night at home in the United Kingdom, who has done so much to help Edmund’s progression into the world’s top 50, said on Twitter: “Physical test passed.. Mental strength passed. I reckon that’s (the) biggest win of @kyle8edmund’s career! Well done Kedders”.
As the final backhand from world No. 61 Basilashvili fell into the net, Edmund threw his arms over his head in joy, before the tiredness ripped through his body as he slumped into his chair after three hours, 34 minutes in which his body and mind were pushed to the absolute limits.
“It was really good to come through,” said an exhausted Edmund, who will climb from his current ranking of 49 to just outside the top 40.
“During the whole of that fifth set the finish line seemed so far away. Physically at the end it was very demanding. When he hit that ball in the net, I was so relieved, because he just kept slugging it and it kept going in. Finally he missed it.”
“Towards the end, the wind died down so there was no fresh air,” he said. “It’s not forgiving, you either get to the ball or you don’t, you can’t bluff it.
“It’s tough but I knew it was tough for him too. If I’m hurting he was going to be hurting. Just kept sticking with it. I knew if I just kept getting balls back, he wasn’t going to like it. Just really pleased.”
With a hot wind also making things difficult, both men struggled for consistency early on, with each hitting more unforced errors than winners.
Having dropped serve in the opening game of the match, there was more concern for Edmund when he needed treatment on his back with the score at 1-2. But he recovered well and after forcing a tiebreak, he took it 7-0.
When he broke on his way to a 3-1 lead in the second, it looked like he would run away with the match but Basilashvili upped his game, slapping winners on both sides as he won five straight games, closing out the set despite two double faults on his first two set points. His serve was a problem throughout – he ended up with 17 double faults – but he was in charge when he won the third set as Edmund sprayed a number of forehands way out of court.
But the match turned on that epic second game of the fourth set when Edmund finally broke serve on his eighth break point after just short of 20 minutes.
The rest of the fourth set took less than that as Edmund levelled but Basilashvili regrouped in the decider, which quickly became a dogfight.
The Georgian saved break points early in the fifth but Edmund always had the advantage of serving first and as his forehand became more and more of a weapon, he finally snatched victory when Basilashvili sent a backhand into the net.