The image of Rafael Nadal holding aloft the Coupe des Mousquetaires usually means one thing, it’s time for the grass-court season. Nadal won an unprecedented twelfth French Open title last weekend but his attention will now turn to grass as he seeks to triumph at Wimbledon, something he hasn’t done since 2010.
The climax of every court season is the third grand slam of the year, Wimbledon.
There's just something special about the tournament held in south west London. The pristine green grass, the immaculate ball boys, the tennis whites. Wimbledon is steeped in tradition everywhere you look.
It's also tradition for British fans to turn up in their thousands and passionately cheer on the home players.
In recent years in the men's draw, that support has been rewarded with Andy Murray winning the tournament in 2013 and 2016. But Murray's 2013 win was the first time a British player had won the men's tournament since World War II.
- Murray hopes to return to single before end of year
- Nadal has a 93-2 record at French Open
- Federer voted greatest player of all-time
With Murray still struggling with injury, the Scot’s only chances of appearing at the tournament are in the doubles. He will make his long-awaited comeback from injury at the LTA Fever Tree Championships at Queens next week alongside Spanish friend Feliciano Lopez in the doubles and, if he comes through unscathed, could appear at Wimbledon.
That means, for the second consecutive year, Kyle Edmund will Britain’s main hope in the men’s singles draw at Wimbledon.
Last year, Edmund excited British tennis fans by setting up a third-round clash with Novak Djokovic. He excited fans even more when he took the first set 6-4. The Brit would go on to lose in four sets but it represented a decent performance from South-African born, who had reached the semi-final of the Australian Open five months previously.
But it’s fair to say Edmund himself has had an up-and-down 12 months since his Wimbledon exploits in 2018.
From winning his maiden ATP title in Antwerp in October to viral fatigue that persuaded doctors to remove his tonsils in November. From losing his inspirational coach, Fiddle Rosengren in February to winning the Indian Wells Challenger in March.
Throughout all of that, Edmund has struggled with a persistent knee injury.
The same knee injury which saw him retire from the recent French Open, plunging his Wimbledon involvement into doubt. But it’s something that Edmund has been ‘constantly managing’ for some time now and he still aims to be lining up at a star-studded LTA Fever Tree Championships at Queens next week.
We caught up with Kyle last week back on home-soil at the NTC, LTA’s world-class tennis and training facility, and the 24-year-old was in a positive mood ahead of the grass-court season.
“The knee is ok. I’ve been training this week, trying to get it stronger. The plan is still to play Queens and Wimbledon, it’s just making sure I have no setbacks,” Edmund said. “It’s all about management, especially in a tournament schedule where it’s constant between clay and grass.”
Edmund’s positivity may actually have come from the fact his beloved Liverpool had just won the Champions League days before we spoke to him.
At the end of April with the Reds still hoping for a Premier League and Champions League double, Edmund was invited up to Melwood and spent the day with Jurgen Klopp in an experience he will ‘remember for the rest of his life.’
Klopp’s dad was a tennis coach and the German manager has even had his own paddle court built - a game adapted from tennis - next to one of the training pitches, where he and his coaches have a match most days. He took interest in Edmund's career during a 10-minute chat in his office in which Klopp also claimed that Liverpool "has the best working environment and atmosphere in the whole league".
Edmund was then given access-all-areas as he watched a private training session before meeting all of the players, admitting he was like 'a big kid' all day. The Reds may not have gone on to win the Premier League despite picking up 97 points, but they clinched their sixth European Cup to round off an incredible season.
It’s fair to say Liverpool’s record on grass under Klopp is slightly better than Edmund’s. But if last season is anything to go by, there's plenty of reasons to be positive stepping onto grass this time around for Edmund.
His grass-court season in 2018 included a straight sets victory over Andy Murray at Eastbourne as well as reaching the third round at Wimbledon before that Djokovic defeat. But a 38% career win record on the surface suggests his cannon-like forehand is better suited to harder surfaces.
Despite that, how can you be a British tennis player and not look forward to the grass-court season? Last year, he described Wimbledon as the “home of tennis” and is once again looking forward to the greatest two weeks in Britain’s sporting calendar.
“Yeah, it’s my favourite time of year in terms of the buzz,” Edmund admitted. “There’s a bit more attention on you. It's good just to be at home as well, more people watching in terms of family and friends. So it’s a really great time of year.
“Every year I get more experience and learn more about myself, the pressures of playing at Wimbledon, everyone’s watching at Queens so every year you get more experienced and it just helps you as you go along.”
But after injury problems over the past few months, Edmund was keen not to set any specific targets for Queens or Wimbledon. Instead, the hope is to get in a good place physically and mentally and the tennis will follow.
“I had my best grass-court season last year. How I played, my best Wimbledon result so there are no targets set. I think with the nature of how my year has gone, it’s been quite up and down physically. The priority right now is to just get in a good place and get the momentum going with that. I feel like my tennis is there now when I am on court and hitting the ball, I’m hitting it well I’m just not feeling as good as I want to be. That’s more of the target right now, rather than a result.”
Edmund, along with the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Stefanos Tsitsipas, have a little more than two weeks to adjust from the clay of Paris to the grass of West Kensington for Queens. Some tennis fans may not realise just how different playing on contrasting surfaces truly is but many professionals will tell you it’s almost a different sport entirely.
That brings with it a different approach to training as players focus on different intensity, movements and muscle groups.
"The grass is a little bit different in terms of movement so different muscles get used so you try to train them. It's more on the glutes because you’re a lot lower," Edmund stated.
"Training is focused on coming from the clay - where it’s longer points and more endurance - then going to the grass where it’s a lot quicker, shorter points, sort of one-two plays. A lot of stuff you do is explosive power, making sure you are quick and can last those short bursts.”
For sportsmen and women to reach the very top of their sport takes a lifetime of motivation and commitment. Perhaps even more so in an individual sport. Waking up every morning to train one-on-one with a coach without the camaraderie of teammates can’t be easy. Edmund admits that he ‘prefers to have guys around him’ but it’s ’something that he’s used to'.
But what does a typical week of training look like for the former world number 14?
"If I’m in a training block, or off-season, I spend three or four hours on court. Then, we alternate between a cardio session, weights session or a core session. Say I’d go Monday, Wednesday, Friday weights and then Tuesday and Thursday, Saturday a cardio session.
"In between, there are a few body management sessions and they’re probably twice a week. Stuff like shoulder setting, lighter weights, oblique rotations, core work that will be in there somewhere like a Tuesday or Thursday.
"So it’s Monday to Saturday - Saturday would be half a day where we play tennis for an hour and a half with a gym session - and then Wednesday we always try to do half-a-day to give you a little bit of a breather on Wednesday afternoon before Thursday morning, just to give you a little bit of a snap-up to push you towards the end of the week.
“That’s a common week, having that Wednesday afternoon really light or off and you’d get Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. The rest of the time you’d be training.”
Catch Kyle in action on the grass courts of the LTA Fever Tree Championships at Queens, with the main draw action taking place 17-23th June 2019 – grounds admissions for just £14 are available from fevertreechampionships.seetickets.com.
The LTA Fever Tree Championships take place at The Queen’s Club in London, from 17-23 June 2019, and is an annual event on the men’s professional ATP World Tour. The Fever-Tree Championships was recently voted ATP-500 Tournament of the Year by the players on the ATP Tour.
After holding a successful wheelchair tennis exhibition last year, the Fever-Tree Championships Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, will be introduced in 2019, with Grand Slam champions Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid set to compete.
There are multiple ways in which those inspired by the professional game this summer can pick up a racquet and get involved – there are thousands of open tennis weekend events, at clubs and venues up and down the UK, giving people the chance to take to their local courts for free, as part of the LTA’s strategy to make tennis as accessible as possible, no matter your age. There’s also the Tennis for Kids programme, so any girl, or boy, across the capital aged 4-11 can sign up for a six-week course to get the best possible start in tennis - as well as having lots of fun…