There is more at stake than merely a place in the third round of the Nature Valley International when Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund face one another at Eastbourne today.
A chance to prove who is the genuine British No 1 for starters.
I played Tim Henman a few times when I was coming up, and Kyle a couple of times, but it is more the challenge of playing a really good player rather than someone who I know pretty well.Andy Murray
World rankings are very much about the present, thus giving Beverley’s Kyle Edmund that status. It follows a year in which he has gone from outside the top 50 in the world to inside its top 20.
That climb owes much to his run to the semi-final of the Australian Open in January but the fact he has yet to cross the line and win a tournament leaves question marks over the 23-year-old’s true claims to a place even higher up the global pecking order.
Murray, by contrast, has gone in the opposite direction due to 11 months on the sidelines with a hip injury that required surgery.
If his health is very much under the microscope today and over the coming days as Wimbledon draws ever nearer, his record over the last decade stands the test of time, regardless of what the rankings say.
This is just the third match of the Scot’s injury comeback so there will be inevitable signs of rust, while Edmund has grown in the spotlight over the last six months of being the leading British male on a tennis court.
It all adds up to an inescapable feeling of the King versus the Heir Apparent on the south coast today, no matter how both men would play such a notion down.
For Edmund, victory would suggest he is ready to become Britain’s No 1 in more than just ranking.
A win for Murray would help keep the future from surpassing the past for just a little while longer.
“I don’t care so much about those sort of tags, but certainly a lot has changed since the last time we played,” said Murray, who owns a 2-0 head-to-head record over his compatriot, both matches having been played in 2016.
“It’s a really good test for me. I would have played, in the space of a week, 10 days, three excellent players.
“Another match against someone as good as Kyle is a really positive thing for me.
“Kyle is a brilliant player – that’s the challenge, not because he’s a fellow Brit.
“I played Tim Henman a few times when I was coming up, and Kyle a couple of times, but it is more the challenge of playing a really good player rather than someone who I know pretty well.
“In the past 12-18 months Kyle has done fantastic things and is improving all the time.
“I think he is playing better grass-court tennis than he had done in the past so it will be tough.
“The atmosphere will probably be different because the crowd won’t necessarily want one particular player to win, they want to see a good match and will support both players.”
Britain’s Cameron Norrie reached the second round with a 7-5 6-7 6-2 victory over Germany’s Daniel Brands.
The 22-year-old secured victory on his serve after rescuing three successive break points to set up a meeting with compatriot Jay Clarke today in Eastbourne.
Johanna Konta progressed to the third round of the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne after overcoming Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets.
She will next face world No 2 Caroline Wozniacki and will need to improve despite the convincing 6-1 6-3 scoreline by which she defeated Serbia’s Krunic.
The 27-year-old perhaps benefited from Krunic hurting herself by slipping into the net during the first set and requiring treatment before the start of the second.
Defeat by the 25-year-old Serb at the first-round stage of last year’s US Open proved the start of Konta’s decline, but it is Krunic – following her fall – who will approach Wimbledon with greater concern.
Having begun confidently to break the world No 39 in the fourth game, Konta stuttered on her own serve before securing a further break and then the opening set by serving with greater authority.
It was then that Krunic was given lengthy treatment on her thigh, which included it being heavily wrapped in a bandage.
Konta, the world No 22, then secured the first of two further breaks in the fifth game of the second set before convincingly taking victory in an hour and 14 minutes with a fine volley on match point.
Compatriot Harriet Dart had been eliminated earlier after a 6-3 6-4 defeat by Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova.
Dart, 21, had impressed on Monday in securing the biggest victory of her career by overcoming Czech Kristyna Pliskova, but similarly struggled with her thigh strapped up.
There was also a victory for third seed Petra Kvitova – also of Czech Republic – 7-5 6-3 over Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko.