After a week of injury woe at the Queensland Tennis Centre, the sight of Grigor Dimitrov hurdling the net and rushing to the side of a prostrate Kyle Edmund was not what British tennis fans wanted to see.
Over the previous 36 hours, Andy Murray had flown home with a chronic hip injury, and Johanna Konta had then been forced to withdraw from her quarter-final here with a muscle twinge in her own right hip.
So when Edmund was wrong-footed by a Dimitrov forehand on Friday, and crashed to the ground with a shout of pain, it was natural to fear the worst. Dimitrov was certainly worried, as he dashed across the court with as slippery a turn of speed as he had shown all match.
Thankfully, though, Edmund’s involvement in the quarter-final did not end there. Once Dimitrov had helped him to his chair, and once his right ankle had been bound up with stiff tape, he was able to play out the final three games of his 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 defeat.
Yes, the interruption might have robbed him of any real chance of victory. But he still sounded confident afterwards that he would be able to fulfil his commitments at the Auckland Open, where he will probably play his first match on Tuesday.
“It made a crack when I went down because the ankle got extended a bit too much,” Edmund said. “I’ve done it twice before. So from the past, the next morning it’s a bit tender but then, after a day or two, it settles down. It’s just a rolled ankle.”
The injury occurred at 4-3 in the third set, and unbalanced what had previously been a taut struggle.
Dimitrov is coming off a triumphant sequence at November’s ATP Finals, where he claimed the biggest title of his career. So for Edmund to stretch the world No. 3 as he did, particularly in a thunderous second-set tie-break, gave a sense of his unlocked potential.
His bone-crushing forehand has rarely been more lethal, and he way he backed it up – serving six aces and covering the court superbly until that unfortunate trip – suggested a man playing at a significantly higher level than his world ranking of No. 50.
As Dimitrov’s speedy and sporting reaction to his injury, Edmund said “He’s always been like that, Grigor – a good guy on and off the court.
“It’s good to see that someone is concerned about you, but as tennis players you generally are. I think somebody’s got to be a right …” – he couldn’t think of an appropriate term here, so settled for raising an eyebrow meaningfully – “… to not show any concern when someone’s just gone over.”
In other news, Serena Williams announced that she will not be defending her Australian Open title, which she won while eight weeks pregnant. “Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” said Williams in a statement. “My coach and team always said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way.’”
And the annual report of the Tennis Integrity Unit showed that the number of alerts prompted by suspicious betting patterns fell in 2017. The total was 241 last year, after reaching 292 in 2016 and 246 the previous season.
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