Three Britons other than Andy Murray are competing in the singles competitions at the Australian Open and each of them has benefited from the Scot’s support in recent weeks.
While Murray was beginning his Melbourne campaign on Monday against India’s Yuki Bhambri, Kyle Edmund, James Ward and Heather Watson will all play their first-round matches on Tuesday. Edmund faces the American Steve Johnson after coming through a Grand Slam qualifying tournament for the first time, while Ward, who meets Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, is playing in a Grand Slam event by dint of his world ranking for the first time. Watson, who won the second title of her career in Hobart on Saturday, faces Tsvetana Pironkova, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Edmund and Ward both trained with Murray during the off-season, in Miami and Dubai respectively, and Watson learned much about the world No 6’s professionalism when she was his mixed doubles partner at the Hopman Cup team event in Perth.
Shortly after another Briton, Liam Broady, had lost to the veteran American Michael Russell in the final round of qualifying on Saturday, Edmund completed a battling victory in three sets over Australia’s Dane Propoggia. His win means there will be three British men in the main draw in Melbourne for the first time since Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Martin Lee flew the flag in 2002.
Edmund, who also trained with Murray in the 2013 off-season, said: “I don’t know how much you see of it, but Andy really wants guys like me and Liam to do well. He’s texting to say ‘well done’ and ‘good luck’ and it’s a nice feeling when someone like that wants you to do well.
“Working with Andy in 2013, it was obviously a higher standard, so for me to play with him I was having to work really hard to win points. This year when I went back and played with him I felt a lot more comfortable with the balance and speed of play. I felt a good improvement from that year, which is what you want.”
Watson said she had learned much from Murray both on and off the court at the Hopman Cup. “He’s such a good person to look up to and he’s so nice and friendly off the court,” she said.
“I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to play with him and just see how professional, hard-working and competitive he is. It was great for me to see that and it gives me a boost, thinking he’s my partner. I’m sure he’s helping the other guys. He’s a great role model for us British players to have.”
The victory over Madison Brengle in the Hobart final on Saturday should take Watson up 11 places to a career-high position at No 38 in Monday’s updated world rankings list, but the 22-year-old from Guernsey will not be resting on her laurels.
Asked whether she might soon have to readjust her target of reaching the top 25 before the end of this year, Watson said: “No, because I haven’t reached that goal. It’s still a long way to go.
“I was saying to my coach this morning in the car: ‘After winning a tournament I’ve only jumped, like, a few spots.’ It was like: ‘Is that it?’ So it’s harder to make those jumps. I did well in patches in 2014 so I’ll have lots of ranking points coming off this season. You’ve got to keep the consistency and do better in the next year.”
Ward is currently No 103 in the world rankings, two places down from the career-high position he reached a fortnight ago. He has his eyes on a significant breakthrough. “If I win here [against Verdasco] it brings me into the top 100 and that would be massive,” the 27-year-old Londoner said.Reuse content