NOBODY will have been more disappointed at Novak Djokovic’s shock exit from the Australian Open than the world No 2 himself.
But behind Djokovic’s honourable wave goodbye to the Melbourne crowd – as his hopes of a seventh title came to an end against Uzbekistanian Denis Istomine – the sense of a missed opportunity will have whisked across the slumped shoulders of Beverley ace Kyle Edmund.
A forlorn Edmund had exited the first Slam of the year after a tepid performance against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta earlier in the afternoon.
Busta, seeded 30th, had won the pair’s only previous meeting and his consistency and varied change-ups proved a thorn in the side of Edmund’s aggressive approach.
The Spanish No 6 needed little of his reserves in the searing heat as he claimed a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the first match of the day on court 13.
As off-colour as Edmund’s performance was, his second round appearance still represents a step forward in his short career.
The second-round appearance at the Australian Open will take Edmund’s ranking points haul over the 1,000 mark for the first time.
Prior to the next rankings change a week on Monday, Sam Querrey occupied 32nd place on 1,355.
It is a much rosier picture than this time in 2016.
Twelve months ago, the Yorkshireman limped away from Melbourne after heat exhaustion took hold during a five-setter against Bosnia and Herzegovina strokemaker Damir Dzumhur.
Questions were inevitably asked about whether Edmund could hack the heat on the elite stage.
But those murmurs were expunged when he reached the US Open fourth round in August last year.
And he has spent the winter back in America alongside Andy Murray in Miami ploughing through practice sessions readying himself for a tilt on the coveted world’s top 32.
Unlike Murray, however – who will spend long sessions powering on a Versaclimber – it is on- court practice that Edmund believes will draw him closer to the sport’s elite.
“I do a lot more track sprints. I did that more at the beginning of my pre-season and then towards the end there was a lot more hours on court in Miami,” said Edmund.
“So it’s the weight sessions, the speed sessions, the track sessions. All those off-court things definitely help but you can’t replace doing hours on court; hours on court with high intensity is where it’s at for me.”
Criticism towards work ethic has been aimed at Edmund’s fellow rapid riser Dan Evans in the past.
And Evans’s run to the fourth round in Australia – continued with a win over Bernard Tomic yesterday – has been put down to an improved attitude on the training courts.
In contrast, Edmund’s effort has driven him to feeling ill.
In previous winters, Edmund has had issues with feeling light-headed and vomiting following tough winter fitness drills.
But he revealed it was all change this time around – as he put battling heat concerns at the top of his priority list.
“In the past if I haven’t replaced the sugar quick enough and I end up vomiting,” explained Edmund.
“I did a session before holiday where I didn’t feel great afterwards but when I came back I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard. I just didn’t vomit.”
The United States will form a big part of Edmund’s plans prior to the clay court season from April to June. Edmund will see the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami as big opportunities to make a ranking gain from his performances last year.
The Yorkshireman has 35 points to defend across the two events, which will take place in March, following first- and second-round exits last year. Progress into the latter stages in 2017 would bolster his bid to become a seed at the summer Slams. Irrespective of results over the next months, however, Edmund believes the winter of 2016-17 will prove beneficial until the day he hangs up his racquet.
“You just can’t replace hard work and actually doing the hours,” he said. “You have different strategies but in my opinion there’s nothing that can replace that. It’s just about getting on court, doing the hours.
“I feel it’s really important to build up a real base. The bigger base you can get, the longer your career goes on. I don’t think the guys in their late 20s, early 30s, are building stamina or strength. All they are doing is maintaining what they built from a young age.
“The reason the top guys can go on so long is because they built a real base. That’s what I’m trying to do.”