Four Brits lined up for the Citi Open in Washington DC but only three featured in the first day of the men’s draw which saw Kyle Edmund make his long-awaited return to the Tour following knee surgery.
I needed it; it had been such a long time. To get a feel for it again, the match-day preparation and to feel those nerves again Kyle Edmund
He was joined in the second round by Jack Draper while Andy Murray, Britain’s most decorated and successful player, fell at the first hurdle.
Edmund’s return, after three left knee surgeries and a 20-month layoff, will delight British tennis fans and his 6-4 7-6(8) defeat of Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki will no doubt give him a great lift as he launches his Tour comeback.
However, Edmund, who hadn’t played a tour-level singles match since Vienna in October 2020, a month before his first operation, will now face the British No.2 and the tournament’s 16th seed Dan Evans in round two, a meeting which will provide him with a bigger test than the Japanese player.
“I didn’t find it easy today,” said Edmund. “I hung in there and I got my reward in the end.”
The 27-year-old Londoner added: “It’s extremely rewarding to be back. There were long periods when I couldn’t see when I would be back. There were times when there was no progression, no improvement. But I was willing to exhaust all avenues to get back. I didn’t pick up a racket for five or six months. I just wanted to play tennis.”
Andy Murray, who lost to Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 7-6(8) 4-6 6-4, and knows a bit about operations and subsequent comebacks, advised Edmund to be patient.
“I think one of the hardest things is when you’ve been injured for a while is to push yourself hard enough in practice to test your body and to prepare your body to play matches because you don’t want to injure yourself in practice,” Murray said. “You sort of can go back into match play a little bit undercooked as well because you’ve just not been pushing your body hard enough in the practices.”
Edmund is certainly taking it step by step.
“You’ve got to be realistic after so much time off. You can’t kill it every day,” he said. “But this is the top of the men’s game and you can’t really hold back.
“For me I only wanted to go back to the match court when I felt I could be as ready as I could be. I know my early matches won’t be perfect, but I need to go out and test the waters.
“I needed it; it had been such a long time. To get a feel for it again, the match-day preparation and to feel those nerves again.”
Meanwhile Murray’s own comeback suffered a blow as he attempts to raise sufficient ranking points to be seeded at the US Open which starts in a few weeks time.
“It’s still possible,” Murray believes. “I would just need to have a good run in Canada or Cincinnati really. It’s pretty straight forward; if I was to make a quarterfinal or a semi-final, which right now — after a loss like that — doesn’t seem realistic.
“I do feel like if I play very well that I could do that. But I’ll need to certainly play better than I did today.”
Jack Draper opened his account with a solid straight sets victory over American wildcard Stefan Kozlov.
The British No.4 went through 7-5 6-2 where the top seeded Andrei Rublev awaits, a player Draper pushed hard over three sets before capitulating in the Madrid Masters earlier this year.
“I think Stefan plays a very awkward game. He’s one of the guys who really disrupts your rhythm. The first four games of the match, I found it really hard to hit the court, actually. The conditions here, it’s quite lively and you have to play with a bit more control,” Draper said in his on-court interview. “I think I adjusted pretty well and, in the end, it became more of a physical battle out here in these conditions.”
Draper lost the first three games of the match and almost went down a quick double break but rallied past the home favourite in one hour and 53 minutes. The 20-year-old saved four of the five break points he faced and hit 10 aces to make round two.