Wimbledon enters its second week shorn of a home challenger in the singles for the first time in more than a decade but Kyle Edmund enhanced his burgeoning reputation once more.
On his least comfortable surface, the 23-year-old had the home crowd believing he could upset Novak Djokovic before the three-time Wimbledon champion roared back to win 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.
Edmund has been all about slow and steady improvement but this season he has pressed the accelerator pedal, climbing from 50 in the rankings to 17. He is predicted to reach a new career high of 15 at the end of the tournament, although others may yet go above him.
It is certainly a major change from a year ago, when he lost comfortably in the second round to Gael Monfils and it would have taken a lot of searching to find someone tipping him as a future grand slam champion.
Edmund, who reached the semi-final of the Australian Open in January, said: “Overall, in terms of level, it’s been a lot better for me. My game’s really improved this year.
“If you think back to 12 months ago, where it was, where it is now, there’s been really good improvements, which I’m pleased about.
He improved his game in the last 12 months. We always knew forehand is a weapon, but his backhand, he was making a lot of unforced errors from that end.Novak Djokovic
“My movement on (grass) has been a lot better, understanding it.
“It’s been that constant learning process. I think overall it’s been the case with me on the grass every year I’m getting slightly better.
“The losses that I’ve had, it’s always good to learn from in each of the tournaments. I guess the good thing is it’s better and there’s room to improve, for sure.
“I think I put a decent level out on court.”
Djokovic is among those who now see Edmund as a major threat to win the biggest titles. He lost to the Yorkshireman on clay in Madrid in May and for a set and a half was bullied by Edmund’s mighty forehand before showing why this might be the tournament that launches him back to the top.
“He does have a quality,” said Djokovic. “He has a very good team of people around him. He has a good work ethic. He’s quiet, committed, a good guy, has a lot of respect from everyone in the locker room.
“He improved his game in the last 12 months. We always knew forehand is a weapon, but his backhand, he was making a lot of unforced errors from that end.”
There were those within British tennis who had reservations about Edmund working with two coaches but the yin and yang of calm Englishman Mark Hilton and ebullient Swede Fredrik Rosengren appears a perfect fit.
Edmund has improved many areas of his game, particularly serve, return and movement. Against Djokovic, there were still a few too many errors and he allowed his opponent to dictate play too often after the opening set, but there was still much to be encouraged by.
Djokovic took a swipe at the Centre Court crowd after his victory. After the Serbian was given an overdue time violation in the third set, the crowd cheered exuberantly, prompting Djokovic to blow sarcastic kisses in their direction and cup his ear. “I thought the crowd’s reaction after that was quite unnecessary,” he said.
The two-time champion is still on course for a potential semi-final meeting with Rafael Nadal.
Nadal ensured he will keep the world No 1 ranking even if Roger Federer wins the title by easing past Alex De Minaur 6-1 6-2 6-4.
The biggest threat to Nadal reaching the last four could well be fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro, who is through to a fourth- round meeting with Gilles Simon after a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 victory over Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Nick Kyrgios crashed out in three sets to Kei Nishikori, while fourth seed Alexander Zverev said he felt like someone had “just unplugged me in the middle of the fourth set” in his surprise 7-6 (7/2) 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-0 defeat to qualifier Ernests Gulbis.
Karen Khachenov came from two sets down to beat Frances Tiafoe in five sets, while Jiri Vesely overcame Fabio Fognini in four sets.
Former runner-up Milos Raonic made short work of finishing off his clash with Dennis Novak.