There is no avoiding what might be called post-Murray-era ennui here, but once Kyle Edmund got his tributes out of the way, the Scot’s heir apparent turned his attention to the tricky business of beating a resurgent Tomas Berdych in the first round on Monday.
It will not be easy, on form, fitness and history. The British No 1 is recovering from a knee strain and Berdych arrives fresh from reaching the final in Doha, where he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut – Andy Murray’s opponent, possibly his last. The Czech likes the Qatar tournament, where he beat Edmund in the quarter-finals three years ago.
The 24-year-old Yorkshireman has developed his game and strength considerably since then. And this is where Edmund finally delivered on his gathering promise a year ago, when he overcame niggles he picked up in Brisbane to give Marin Cilic a decent argument in the semi-finals.
“It’s always good just to come back,” he said. “You remember leaving last year and how it ended and coming back where you did well and playing on certain courts. It is nice to come back. It certainly goes quickly.”
In the 12 months since, Edmund has climbed from 50 in the world to 14, with a few difficult moments along the way, his season finishing when his knee gave up on him at the Paris Masters in October. The trouble flared in Brisbane two weeks ago, forcing him to withdraw from the Sydney International last week. “It’s a lot better than what it was,” he said.
“I’ve been practising pretty much like my normal schedule. I’m happy the way it’s going and it’s getting better. Things don’t happen overnight, they take time to progress. You have to manage it very well. If it continues to [improve] then that’s a good sign. I’ll be fine to play. I’ve been playing a lot of hours the last week.”
Edmund’s coolness in a crisis has helped turn him into one of the most dangerous opponents on the Tour. He is not remotely concerned about defending his ranking points here, either. “It’s a number on a sheet of paper. The worst that can happen is I lose and I go down a bunch of rankings. It definitely doesn’t keep me awake at night.
“This is a tough match, though. It’s a bit weird because he’s been out injured and you don’t know how they are coming back. But he did well in Doha so you get a feeling that he is playing well. The way I’ve been going with my fitness and continuing to get that better, I’m pleased about. This year’s so long, there’s so many more opportunities after this tournament to do well.
“Last year after Australia it took a while until I won a match again, so there are always those sort of silver linings, you could say. Last year I drew [Kevin] Anderson, this year Berdych. They’re tough matches but you can win them. You’ve just not got to have many expectations.”
The nation does, though. For all that he manages his emotions in an entirely different way to Murray, he will feel those pressures on court. He is in the same quarter of the draw as Anderson, who opens against the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. There are some quality obstacles in Edmund’s section, including the world No 2, Rafa Nadal, whose first opponent is James Duckworth, who history might yet record as the last player to lose to Murray.
Nadal, who has known Murray since they met as teenagers in Barcelona, on Saturdayjoined the chorus of commiseration for his friend’s impending retirement. The Spaniard, the 2009 champion, had foot surgery last year, but declared: “I feel good” otherwise I would not be here.”
He said of Murray: “It is very bad news. When you are going on court every day without a clear goal because you cannot move well, you have pain, then is the moment to take a decision. Probably he is fighting to keep going for a long time. If he doesn’t feel that it can go better, probably he does the right thing for his mental health.
“He will be a big loss for tennis, for the Tour, for the fans, even for his rivals. He has been part of a great rivalry between the best players for a long time, and a great competitor. But that’s life. I know that tennis is not forever. I want to do it as long as I can.”