Queen’s 2016: Kyle Edmund scores career-best win over Gilles Simon
Kyle Edmund earns the best win of his career, beating French eighth seed Gilles Simon in the first round at Queen's Club
When the draw for the Aegon Championships was made last weekend, the distribution of the five British players took some believing.
Top of the pile, of course, was defending champion Andy Murray, fresh from his first French Open final and reunited at Queen’s with former coach, Ivan Lendl, and it was little surprise that he beat the 34-year-old Nicolas Mahut in a tightly fought two tie-breaks.
But lined up next, should he win his own first match, could be British No2, Aljaz Bedene, though with Frenchman and No23-ranked Benoit Paire to contend with, there were not high hopes.
In the event, on a late, dark evening in Kensington, Bedene did indeed get past Paire, 7-6(6), 6-7(7), 6-4. It set the first all-British main-tour men’s contest since Murray played Tim Henman a decade ago.
The winner from that contest could then, should more odds be overturned, face another Briton in the quarter-finals.
The first and youngest, age 21, was Kyle Edmund, close to a career high 85 after winning two Challengers from three finals this year. He was here for just the second time having lost his only other match at Queen’s in 2013.
Now he took on No8 seed Gilles Simon, who gave Murray such a work-out in the Davis Cup tie between GB and France right here last summer. However, Edmund only just lost out to Simon in their only previous meeting, also on grass, while he was still a teenager: two tie-break sets.
And Edmund’s big serve and forehand quickly made inroads into the defensive game of Simon, he broke in third game, and held that lead to the set’s conclusion, 6-4.
He broke again in the opening game of the second set, but this time Simon broke straight back and broke through again in the sixth. The Frenchman survived a break point to serve out the set, 6-3.
After a short delay for rain at the start of the third, Edmund pulled Simon back from a 40-15 advantage and broke for a 3-1 lead, and with the sun back out and the court a little faster, Edmund went on a roll to break again with a backhand cross-court pass. It was exactly the same shot that held for the set and match, 6-1, to score the best win of his career.
Now the big question was, could the newest British member of the top 100, Dan Evans, make a clean sweep for the home nation in the top quarter of the draw? For he was drawn against yet another Frenchman, Paul-Henri Mathieu, also ranked considerably higher than himself at 60.
Evans reached a career-high this season courtesy of a storming season on the Challenger circuit: two titles from four finals. This match, too, would go the distance—in an even longer contest—for after two hours, the two men were locked at a tie-break apiece.
Unfortunately for the home crowd and for the record books, Evans could not hold off the only break of the final set in the eighth game, though he had one last chance to break in the final game. It was not to be: the wily 34-year-old Frenchman took the win, 6-4, to join three Britons in the top quarter of the draw.
Not since 2005 had four men won their opening matches at this tournament, back when the draw comprised 56 men and the champion earned only 250 points instead of the 500 on offer here since last year.
This time, though, there is a very real chance of an all-British quarter-final. Clearly Murray is favoured to beat Bedene to that point, but Edmund too has a real shot at taking out Mathieu. A pity, perhaps, that the three should clash so early, but great news for a British tournament that has been so marred by rain.