There are short straws and there is drawing Novak Djokovic in the second round of a grand slam tournament but Kyle Edmund does not sound like a condemned man on the eve of his seventh match against the best player in the world.
“Is he beatable? Of course,” said the 25-year-old Yorkshireman, who has done so once and had the rivets of his boiler rattling in a tense, fitful opener at the US Open against the eccentric Kazak Alexander Bublik on Monday.
“It’s the hardest match on tour right now on rankings, form – everything, really. He’s the guy to beat. It’s also a great test for me, to see where I’m at with my game. I’ve had one positive experience playing against him [winning on clay in Madrid two years ago].
“You always try to use those experiences when you have played someone in the past to see how you felt, what tactics to use, etc. These are very different circumstances now. I’ve got to focus on myself, really, before worrying about him.”
Playing a small but maybe important card, he added: “All the pressure is on him in terms of being expected to win. I’m not. My game is about me expressing myself and certainly when I play the better guys that is my strength. My strength isn’t trying to play them at their game.”
Djokovic is not exactly worried about playing someone 44 places adrift of him in the rankings but he is wary of Edmund.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” he said after returning to his imperious best when beating Damir Dzumhur in three sets on Monday. “He’s a hard worker, puts in a lot of hours on and off the court into perfecting his game. His results were kind of up and down but he does have the game and the potential to be in the top 20 without a doubt. [That is] where I expect him to be soon. So it’s going to be a tough one.”
Djokovic identified the obvious threat in his Edmund’s arsenal. “He does have a really good serve and forehand, two big weapons. I had some good matches against him in the past: Wimbledon, a tough four-setter [third round, 2018]. He doesn’t feel so much pressure, I think, playing on the big court. He likes the challenge.”
Edmund said beating Djokovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, in the third round of the Madrid Masters “was one of the biggest wins in my career, mentally”, adding: “He’s just such a tough player to break down. I have an aggressive game, I have success breaking people down but there is a reason he is world No 1. It takes a lot of resilience to play against him.”
Cam Norrie, the British No 3, showed plenty of that in the biggest upset in the men’s draw on day one, when he came from two sets down to beat the Argentinian ninth seed, Diego Schwartzman in a dramatic five-setter that set a US Open record of 58 total break points conceded.
His match on Wednesday against Federico Coria will be easier in two respects, given Schwartzman’s talented compatriot is ranked just outside the top 100 and this is his first time in the main draw of a grand slam.
Norrie is taking nothing for granted but is as upbeat as he has been in a while. “My coach [Facundo Lugones] is Argentinian, so he knows him and I think he plays a little bit similar to Diego,” Norrie said.
“It’s a great match-up. I have to be ready for a battle. He is really good on clay and he is physically great, strikes the ball well, has a great backhand. It will be really tough.
“I have had a great win here but I want to back it up. Having a big win and then backing it up is almost tougher on the Wednesday. I am looking forward to that. I am going to fight as hard as I can. I’m feeling confident heading into it.”