Madrid Masters 2018: Only way is up for Edmund and Shapovalov, while Goffin and Del Potro exit

British number one Kyle Edmund continues to progress at Madrid Masters after beating David Goffin in straight sets

British No1 Kyle Edmund Photo: The Sport Review

It is proving to be a very good year for the 23-year-old Briton, Kyle Edmund.

It began, then ranked No50, with wins over Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung in Brisbane. Then he reached his first Major semi-final at the Australian Open, beating Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov along the way.

After a spate of illness before the clay season got into full swing, Edmund reached his first ATP final—in Marrakech—and won his first doubles title—Estoril—with fellow Brit Cameron Norrie.

Through the spring, he rose so far that he overtook the sliding Andy Murray, who has been away from competition since last summer and undertook hip surgery at the start of 2018. Edmund became British No1 after Murray’s 12-year reign in that spot, and rightly, his confidence has continued to grow.

So he arrived in the Spanish capital, at a career-high No22, well acclimatised to the red clay, and with his serve and net skills in good working order. And the combination of that ease on the red stuff, and the extra bit of zip on the balls that this city’s altitude adds to the equation, was making Edmund’s game even more effective in his first ever appearance at the Caja Magica.

One more milestone was immediately up for grabs, therefore. Thus far, he had never made it beyond the third round of any Masters tournament, and his draw made it an apparently thorny task to do so in Madrid. He beat the tall and dangerous Russian Daniil Medvedev for the loss of only four games, but then he faced two-time former champion Novak Djokovic.

Certainly the mighty Serb has struggled to regain his form and fitness after a long injury lay-off—and minor elbow surgery—but Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori in straights in his opener, and Edmund had not so much as won a set over the former No1 in three previous matches. But this would be different. The Briton came out swinging, served big, hit his improved backhand to undermine the Djokovic tactics, and deployed some nice net skills, too.

Djokovic adjusted, settled and dominated in the second set, but Edmund showed composure and attack to turn the tables in his favour again in the third. He advanced to his first Masters third round, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

At Masters level, the competition is fierce throughout, and when it comes to clay, No8 seed David Goffin is one of toughest. The Belgian, however, was yet to show all the confidence and consistency that took him to the final of the World Tour Finals after an eye injury in February. And the light conditions at the innovative Madrid arena test vision and sharpness more than anywhere. Djokovic struggled with his serve into the sun against Edmund, and dramatic shadows across the court require pin-sharp adjustment with split-second timing.

The conditions are the same for all players, of course, but Goffin’s vision has taken time to recover, and he was immediately broken in the first game. Edmund, whose all-court power was so effective against Djokovic, maintained his form to break again for the set, 6-3, in under half an hour.

Edmund then fended off break points in the first game of the second set, and went on to break Goffin—again when serving into the sun—in the sixth game, 2-4.

Another big serve and a net follow-up took Edmund a step further, and he opened up a great chance against the Goffin serve in the eighth game with a jaw-dropping flicked cross-court backhand. He would, though, have to serve out the match, and despite throwing in his only double fault, he did so with ease, 6-3, after just 72 minutes.

It was a convincing victory, even taking account of Goffin’s error count, 21 to nine from Edmund, and it takes the Briton to two very significant new milestones. He is now into his first Masters quarter-final, and come Monday, he will break into the top 20.

Indeed with another win in Madrid, he would overtake Djokovic—he currently has identical points—and would get close to the top 16, which is a valuable for seedings for the French Open: He would not face a higher-ranked player until the fourth round at Roland Garros. No wonder he was delighted, in his very quiet way, with this performance:

“I managed my game very well today. I served really well, got me through easy games and also got me out of some tricky situations… Not thinking too much, being controlled and relaxed, and not worrying too much. [Goffin] is a top player so I’m very pleased.”

But to reach the semis, Edmund will have to take on the very different style of tennis played by the prodigious talent that is 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

The left-handed Canadian, with energy and flair to spare, has promised great things since his first wild-card appearance at Masters level in his home tournament of Toronto. He beat Nick Kyrgios, and last year, in only his second Masters appearance, this time in Montreal, he reached the semis via a final-set tie-break against Rafael Nadal.

A great showing at the US Open meant he would now play the main draws of all the other Masters. And having made the fourth round in Miami this year, he was now aiming to reach the quarters in Madrid, but had to beat compatriot and former world No3 Milos Raonic to do so.

That looked an uphill task when Raonic opened with three aces for a hold of serve, but Shapovalov was far from intimidated, and a huge backhand winner down the line quickly had the crowd on its feet. The teenager, intense in his shot-making and his on-court persona, earned break points in the fifth game, but Raonic’s serve was up to the test. No matter: Shapovalov earned another chance with a blistering backhand through Raonic at the net, and served out the set, 6-4.

Raonic was up against it again in the fifth game of the second set, as dazzling Shapovalov backhands wreaked havoc. Again, a series of big serves saved the day, and then it was Raonic’s turn to earn break point, but the super-confident Shapovalov fired off a forehand, held, and then broke, 3-4. He had stacked up 15 forehand winners to just five from Raonic, and his nimble athleticism coped with two net-cord shots to open the court for yet another winning backhand.

The youngster did not waver: He served out the win, after only an hour and 22 minutes, 6-4, having piled up 28 winners to only 17 errors. To give that some context, Raonic managed only 14 winners—and he has hit more aces in many previous matches.

Shapovalov said of his performance:

“It’s a massive win. He’s such a role model for me, just to play against him at such a big tournament, and to beat him it’s incredible for me.

So it will be a fifth meeting between Shapovalov and Edmund, as both men anticipate career-high rankings. The Canadian is now within touching distance of a seeding at the French Open, and could break into the top 30 if he beats Edmund.

Two men with reason to be proud, then, but also very focused come Friday’s quarter-finals.

In the top quarter, No4 seed Juan Martin del Potro had hopes of a rise into the top three dashed after leading by a set and then 4-0 in the deciding tie-break to qualifier Dusan Lajovic, but the Serb dug in for a fine win, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(6).

And if the Serb beats No6 seed Kevin Anderson, he will also reach a new career high. He, incidentally, is also celebrating a first Masters quarter-final, at 27 years of age.

Dominic Thiem then survived a strong challenge from Borna Coric, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, after almost two and a half hours, for the chance to play either Nadal or Diego Schwartzman in the quarters.

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