Tie Break Tens: Kyle Edmund downs Murray and Ferrer to claim $250,000

Kyle Edmund won the inaugural Tie Break Tens at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening and took away more money than he had earned all year

Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund, fresh from taking Great Britain to its first Davis Cup victory in almost 80 years, brought down the curtain on 2015 in an energetic, fun—and very lucrative—new event at the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

In the debut playing of an innovative quick-fire tennis format, Tie Break 10s was the Saturday night highlight of the Champions Tennis tournament that sells out this beautiful arena for five days every December.

Tennis fans young and old have, for years, flocked to the Albert Hall to catch sight of players who once topped this sport: the likes of Stefan Edberg, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe—and the 56-year-old McEnroe, who won the first playing of the event in London in 1997, is still packing them in.

This time, he was not just playing in the singles and doubles events, but stepped up to share the stage with the ‘young guns’ in the round-robin, winner-takes-all Tie Break 10s. He was quick to downplay his chances though, as always, his sharp tongue as well as his racket was at the ready: “In one sense no one wants to play me and in the other sense everyone wants to play me desperately, because it’s like I’m the sacrificial lamb…

“But at least if there’s a chance with a couple of these old guys that you get a lead early—I’m just thinking the guys like [Tim] Henman and [Xavier] Malisse, those are old guys—if God forbid they lose to me in a match, they’ll never hear the end of it. There’s an upside.”

Those ‘old’ guys were 41 and 35 respectively, though in the six-man field was the current world No7, 33-year-old David Ferrer. Old, in men’s tennis these days, is proving to be a movable feast.

The six men, indeed, ranged from 28-year-old world No2 Murray to veteran seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe, from 20-year-old No102 Edmund to six-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Henman. They were drawn into two pools, played two round-robin matches apiece, and the winner in each pool went on to play the second man in the other pool.

McEnroe played up to the crowd, played out his tongue-in-cheek tantrums, played some memory-burnishing leftie volleys and one-handed blinders, but lost both his matches.

Henman lost to Belgian Malisse, whose dry, laid-back humour added much to the proceedings. Asked what got him pumped up in life, he smiled: “I don’t know… I’ll have to ask my pharmacist about that.”

But ‘C’mon Tim’ Henman did enough to set up a much-hoped-for semi against ‘C’mon Andy’ Murray. In the time it took Murray to batter Henman, 10-1, the chants had morphed into ‘C’mon, Henman Hill’ and ‘C’mon Murray Mount’. This was, by now, a well-oiled audience fully into the high jinx of the occasion.

Despite Murray rubbing his face into the dirt, Henman deadpanned to the fans: “I taught him everything he knows!”

Murray turned on the serious face to reply: “He was very good to me when I was young.”

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

But it set up a final between the two men who, not a week ago, were on the same team against Belgium. For young Edmund, who came so close to winning the match of his career when he took a two-sets-to-love lead over world No16 David Goffin in Ghent, this time beat his Belgian, Malisse, with ease.

So Edmund needed to win just 10 points to earn the biggest purse of his life, a cool quarter-million dollars. Not that many in the Albert Hall expected anything other than a Murray win, even Edmund.

Before the event, asked how he felt about being on the other side of the net from Murray, he said: “I’m not looking forward to it, no [smiling]. Obviously I’ve practised with him a lot but I’ve never played a competitive match against him or tie-break, so it will be a new thing for me.”

Now, in the space of an hour or so, he was playing his second match against Murray, having already lost the first tie-break. But after nattering with Ferrer, Henman and Murray as he watched the other tie-breaks, Edmund was much more relaxed, and he pummelled his serve and forehand beyond even the reach of returning maestro Murray. In little more than five minutes, he had upped his career earnings by 60 per cent.

So what would he do with this windfall? ‘Elder statesman’ Murray chipped in: “Invest it!”

In truth, Edmund could do a lot worse than follow the example of his compatriot. After reaching his first Grand Slam at the US Open at the age of 21, Murray would reach the final of the Australian Open four times, the semis on his least favourite surface at Roland Garros three times, and in 2012 make his first Wimbledon final before going on to win Olympic gold. A year later, he had the Wimbledon trophy, too, and after back surgery soon after, worked his way up to a current highest ever year-end ranking of No2 and into the leading role in GB’s Davis Cup victory.

His achievements have been built not just on talent but on a remarkable work-ethic, yet Murray added a third component in his advice to Edmund: “Invest in the good people around you and the rest will take care of itself.”

Edmund was listening: “It’s important to use the money smartly. The best thing is to invest it in my career. If I invest in support and trainers, it’s going to help me on court.”

McEnroe already liked what he saw in the young Briton: “He’s made some great progress. He’s a better athlete than I thought, his backhand was more solid, he’s got a huge forehand, he pops that serve, and he rose to the occasion. He’s got huge upside.”

And rubbing shoulders court-side with a clutch of players who have already been there and done that will send Edmund away to his prize-boosted pre-2016 training with just a little more spring in his step.

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