Opinion: The numbers behind Kyle Edmund’s demise

This time last year, Kyle Edmund was on the brink of breaking into the world’s top ten. He was playing at the European Open in Belgium which turned out to be his first title on the ATP Tour. After beating Gael Monflis in the final, he broke down in tears and ran over to his coach.

Fast forward 12 months, he loses his seventh match in a row in the first round of qualifying at the same tournament to the 116th best player in the world, Norbert Gombos.

The question is, how has a player who reached the semi-final at the 2018 Australian Open fallen so quickly? Comparing the numbers from 2018 and 2019 shows little difference in stats such as first serves won and break points converted. This shows the fine margins in tennis that seperates the best from the rest.

Many thought that Edmund was set to take over Andy Murray’s mantel following his surprise run to the Australian Open semi-final in 2018. However, he has never been able to recreate that form, partly because of injury problems and partly since he split with his Swedish coach Freddie Rosengrun.

Under Rosengrun, Edmund had some amazing wins over the likes of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Grigor Dimitrov. They won the title in Belgium which capped off a tremendous year and saw Edmund gain a career high of 14 in the world rankings. He ended the year with 37 wins against 21 losses. However, 2019 has been very different.

His first match in Brisbane in January was a loss to unheralded Japanese player Yasutaka Uchiyama followed by a first round loss at the Australian Open, one year after reaching the semi-final. After this, he decided to drop down a level to compete in a tournament on the ATP Challenger tour which he went on to win, beating the talented Russian Andrey Rublev in the final. Perhaps he should do this again before the end of the the season? It may help him get some much needed confidence.

Edmund then went on a five-match losing streak during the clay-court season. This was a major blow as his 2018 clay-court season was very good. This can be seen in the comparison between his total service points won and total return points in 2018 and 2019. Last year he won 65% of his service points on clay compared to 59% this year. His return points won last year were 41% with 34% this year. This is a huge difference with Edmund’s big-hitting game suiting a slow clay court very well.

This coincided with Rosengrun’s retirement from tennis coaching. This saw a clear drop in Edmund’s game with his body language becoming less positive and losing confidence in his best shot, his forehand.

This has lead to his most recent losing streak which currently stands at seven matches. This included a loss in a third set tiebreak to world number 213 Zhizhen Zhang in Shanghai. Edmund’s last win was over two months ago, in Montreal against the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios.

Edmund’s statistics in 2018 and 2019 show how important fine margins are at the very top of the game. For example, last year’s first serve points won was 75% with this year 71%. Also, his second serve points won last year was 54% with 51% this year. Edmund’s drop is primarily due to his mindset. This could have been influenced by his sparodic injuries as well as Rosengrun’s departure. The most telling statistic was his break points saved. Last year this stood at 65% with 57% this year. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it shows he was mentally tougher last year.

Edmund has never been as emotional on court as Andy Murray. He doesn’t get visibly frustrated very often which could be a problem. The comparisons with Murray are unfair but understandable with the pressure of living up to him possibly contributing to his poor form.

The next few weeks are vital for Edmund as he has to make changes in preparation for next season. There have been rumours that Rosengrun is coming out of retirement following Edmund’s split from coach Mark Hilton. He dropped down to the ATP Challenger tour successfully earlier in the year so perhaps he should consider doing that again. Murray may be able to provide him with some inspiration with Edmund set to play with him at the Davis Cup Finals in November and the inugural ATP Cup in January.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Carine06

Leave a Comment