Kyle Edmund's only walk on the wild side takes him to Wimbledon
British 18-year-old does not drink and rarely goes out but the sacrifice has delivered French success and a SW19 invitation
With A-levels out of the way, it is party time for Kyle Edmund's school friends. He hopes to see some of them next week, but there is no way he will be out painting the town red. "Going out and stuff, I can't do that," Edmund said. "Well I could, but I'm in a very fortunate position. I've got to take as much from it as I can and not waste the opportunity."
A whirlwind month for 18-year-old Edmund will reach a climax when he makes his senior debut at Wimbledon next week. It began with victory in the boys' doubles at the French Open, where he became the first Briton to win a title at Roland Garros for 31 years. It gathered pace last week with his first appearance on the main tour at Queen's Club, where he pushed Slovenia's Grega Zemlja hard before losing in two tight sets, and was followed this week at Eastbourne by his first win at that level when he beat the big-serving Frenchman Kenny de Schepper, who stands 360 places above him in the world rankings.
British juniors have not always had the best of reputations when it comes to their behaviour off the court or indeed their commitment on it, but Edmund has impressed everyone with his maturity and dedication.
Even when he celebrated his 18th birthday he was not tempted to enjoy a quiet drink or two. "I avoid all stuff like that because there's just no point," Edmund said. "It might be fun for maybe 10 or 20 minutes. Or even if you go out for a night, it's fun. But the day after you're like: 'Urgh!' Other people are different, but for me personally I just avoid that stuff."
Is he never tempted to forget his sport and party like his friends? "No, because I love tennis. I know where I want to get to. I still go out but I do it sensibly. Do I think this is going to jeopardise my career? No. At the same time you want to chill out and take your mind off tennis, and it's a good way to do it."
One of Edmund's school friends sent him a message recently: "All those assemblies missed are starting to pay off now." It was a reference to the times when Edmund would arrive late at school because of his tennis training. He is now the envy of his school mates, though he points out that being a tennis player means he does miss out on some of the pleasures that other teenagers can enjoy.
"They think I'm doing all this stuff, but at the same time they don't realise I don't get to see them," Edmund said. "It's give and take. I do what I do, but they get to see their friends and I don't."
Edmund is part of the most promising generation of British teenagers for many years– Oliver Golding won the US Open boys' title while Liam Broady has played in Grand Slam junior finals – but over the last 12 months he has made the greatest strides. He has already won one title on the Futures circuit, which is the level below the Challenger tour, and broken into the world's top 500.
While this month has given Edmund a flavour of the big time, with wild cards into Queen's, Eastbourne and Wimbledon, he has been learning his trade the hard way. All his other tournaments this year have been clay-court Futures events in the United States, Spain and Croatia.
"The schedule has been tough, very tough at the start of the year," Edmund said. "I could have gone to countries where there are cheaper points, easier points, people not so highly ranked, but my coach and I have always tried to think long-term."
He added: "We could have played a little bit on hard courts, but we try to avoid the indoors as much as possible. You look at the tour – you've got probably Paris and the O2 and a couple of others that are indoors. Throughout the year it's all outdoors. That's where tennis is at and that's what we've been focusing on.
"England is mostly indoors because of the weather. That's why we've stayed away. I've been more on American clay than red clay. That's just the way the schedule went. After the grass I will be on hard courts until after the US Open."
Edmund has played in the Wimbledon junior tournament for the last three years. "Before that I went there once as a spectator," he recalled. "I remember going there the first time and feeling a bit shell-shocked, taking everything in. It's nice that I've played some matches there. You remember every match you play there."
Did he think that having played at the All England Club in the junior events would help him next week? "I'll use the experience. I know I'll get good support. But it's not a good feeling if you are focusing on anything else. You just want to focus on yourself and put your game out on the court. During the match I'll try not to think about where I am or the situation."
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