British No 1 Kyle Edmund out of Australian Open after straight-sets defeat to Tomas Berdych

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Edmund appeared hampered by his knee injury as he succumbed to Berdych in Melbourne - Getty Images AsiaPac
Edmund appeared hampered by his knee injury as he succumbed to Berdych in Melbourne - Getty Images AsiaPac

For British fans, Kyle Edmund was the hero of last year’s Australian Open, taking out two top-ten players in Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov on the way to his first grand-slam semi-final.

This time around, he barely made a ripple on the surface before slipping out of the tournament, beaten in three largely one-sided sets by the unseeded Tomas Berdych.

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It was a grim outcome, especially as Edmund’s run here last year meant that he was defending 720 points – a third of his overall total. His 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 defeat will thus roughly double his ranking from around No. 14 in the world to No. 28.

While the result might have been disappointing, it was not hugely surprising. Edmund has been struggling for fitness since the end of last year, when he pulled out of the Paris Masters with a knee injury, and then had his tonsils removed early in November.

And his travails did not end with the coming of the new season. A fortnight ago, he cited his knee as the reason for another withdrawal, this time from the recent Sydney International. On the court yesterday, he looked underpowered and hesitant in his movement.

“I'm not 100 per cent,” said Edmund afterwards. “But it's always my choice whether I walk onto court or not.  

“It’s not like the worst position I'm at. But in one way it's frustrating because you can't give a time scale. You'd love to know ‘I'm going to be here, I'm going to be great.’ But the way the body works is not like that. Everyone's different, goes at different rates. You're always itching, competitive, want things done immediately. You just have to have patience and give stuff time to get better.”

On a day when seven British players clocked up just two wins between them, the only successful male was Dan Evans – the reformed scamp who is playing his first grand slam since he lost a year of his career to the cocaine that showed up on a routine dope test. His reward for yesterday’s win will be a crack at Roger Federer, the man he lost to in the third round of Wimbledon in 2016.

<span>Evans beat Japanese qualifier Ito&nbsp;7-5, 6-1, 7-6</span> <span>Credit: REUTERS </span>
Evans beat Japanese qualifier Ito 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 Credit: REUTERS

Having fought his way through qualifying in fine style, Evans carried his form straight into his match against fellow qualifier Tatsumo Ito. Admittedly, this was the best draw he could possibly have had. But on a day of intense heat, it would have been easy to let his concentration wander. Especially as Ito kept calling the physio on court for attention to his left thigh, yet continued to charge around the court at high speed.

“Obviously it's tough to get over the line,” said Evans after his 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 victory. “I thought he played pretty well towards the end of the match. I thought he was going to pull out, as well. He looked at me quite a few times like he was going to leave. But I played pretty good, especially towards the end. I thought the level of the match went pretty high.”

The final male player in action – leaving Murray to one side – was Cameron Norrie. Coming off a career-best run to the final of the ATP event in Auckland last week, Norrie found himself facing his doubles partner Taylor Fritz. Coincidentally, he had also beaten Fritz in Auckland, but the lack of acclimatisation time may have counted against him after he flew into Melbourne on Saturday night. This time, Fritz was the victor by a comprehensive 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 scoreline.

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