Team GB need thriving Kyle Edmund to return to Davis Cup side soon

Fresh from reaching the Australian Open semifinals, Kyle Edmund will be Britain's leading player in their World Group Davis Cup tie against Spain, which begins in Marbella on Friday. Getty Images/Getty Images for LTA

The sweat, exhaustion and pride of everything Kyle Edmund achieved at the Australian Open will now be compartmentalised into experience. The British No. 2 has got the taste for the final throes of Grand Slams after reaching the semifinals in Melbourne, he now wants more.

News has broken that a hip injury will prevent Edmund from playing any part in the Davis Cup singles against Spain and if the Great Britain side is to emulate the success of 2015, they will more than likely need him to return sooner rather than later.

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Edmund, but to those closest it comes as no surprise that he has taken another step closer to realising dreams he scribbled down on a piece of paper as a 10-year-old.

Neither reaching the final four in Australia nor winning the Davis Cup were on the "goal sheet" the young Edmund handed his then coach Richard Plews. Detailing his dreams for tennis, Plews had seen hundreds of these, but Edmund's stood out.

"He was already talking about wanting to be a professional player," Plews told ESPN. "At that age, he was already talking about his forehand, backhand down the line being signature strengths. And also his drop shot.

"He talked about wanting to be top 10 in the country, and then top 10 in the world. You often get kids saying they want to be pros, or win Wimbledon, but Kyle had this laser beam focus and was so focused on what he wants to do."

Edmund is beginning to realise his potential. That was the common theme from talking to his first individual coach Plews, old roommate Luke Bambridge, and Mark Hilton, who is one half of Edmund's coaching double act alongside Fredrik Rosengren. The talent was always there, but small alterations have seen him turn from being the nearly-man into a player who exploded into Britain's tennis consciousness in Melbourne.

"It's been an amazing journey," Plews said. "He's constantly improved; he's improved physically, mentally. His movement has improved, his serve has moved forward and he's got that nuclear forehand. It's arguably the most destructive weapon in men's tennis. He'll only continue to improve. It's classic Kyle."

Plews talked to ESPN courtside in Tarbes, in the south of France at the tournament "Les Petits As," overseeing two young hopefuls wanting to emulate Edmund. He first came across Edmund in 2003 when the youngster attended Plews' summer school in Hull. The camp combined producing serious tennis players -- Katie O'Brien included -- but there was recreational tennis, too. An 8-year-old Edmund arrived for the recreational side in the multisport camp and won the gold medal.

"He showed great ability, even though he wasn't particularly tutored at that time," Plews said. When the club relocated to the David Lloyd Gym in Hull in January 2004, Edmund followed and Plews became his individual coach. He remembers him coming to the club before and after school, and then taking half days off school to practise more. As his commitment grew, so did his forehand. "He had a game that was unusual for kids of that age," Plews said. "He had a game that would translate into the men's game. At that young age he had a game identity."

He did not have an eye-catching junior career -- he wasn't necessarily knocking the world over, as Plews put it -- and in 2007 John Black inherited him. It was around this time that Bambridge got to know him.

Bambridge, who roomed with Edmund for two years at the National Tennis Centre, remembers the young Briton as being reserved and unwaveringly focused on his love for tennis. But there was also a scary power to his game.

"He used to sit on his iPad watching tennis or F1 or Liverpool," Bambridge said. "Lewis Hamilton is his hero. Always watching tennis, Liverpool highlights and spent his whole time on YouTube.

"Growing up he was an introvert and kept himself to himself, but when he stepped on to the court he fully expressed himself with his aggressive game style, as you saw in Melbourne."

Bambridge, Edmund and Evan Hoyt would win the 2011 Junior Davis Cup in Mexico, beating Italy in the final. "If you've been in a team with him he is an exceptionally good team player and man to have on the team," Bambridge added. "You can always rely on him to put in the best possible performance. There is no lower gear for him."

Bambridge has kept tabs on his development, and also watched closely at how he manages his coaches. While Hilton and Rosengren are working with Edmund at the moment, Plews, Black, Colin Beecher, Greg Rusedski, James Trotman and Ryan Jones also had spells coaching Edmund.

"How he's done his coaching is exceptional; some said it was unfair," Bambridge said. "He hasn't allowed relationships to get stale. He maximises his knowledge from a coach. Mark Hilton is an amazing coach for him. His philosophy is based around being competitive. It's little bits which he's developed in time which have all come together."

Hilton felt Andy Murray's guidance -- Murray invited Edmund to his training camps in the past -- and Edmund's role in the Davis Cup triumph in 2015 have helped move his game forward but he has always been aware of this bubbling talent, which had not quite come to boil until Melbourne.

He has worked with Edmund, in an official capacity, since last year's Wimbledon, having previously coached Liam Broady and Dan Evans. It was happenstance as both were looking for new challenges after the U.S. Open. Edmund brought in Rosengren, and it was a perfect marriage, as Rosengren brought the nous of having guided top-10 players and those in the last throes of Grand Slams, while Hilton understood the small improvements Edmund needed in his game.

The training sessions were mixed up, to replicate match circumstance. On some days Edmund would undergo a grueling four-hour, non-stop training session; on others, they'd do it in stops and starts, other occasions would be focused around technique. All the while they were fine-tuning his game, and improving accuracy.

"What we wanted to see was the end product where he could use his biggest weapons like his forehand -- so the small technical changes we've done to make his serve more consistent and accurate have led to that on the match court," Hilton said.

"He's always had his eyes on the end game and that original 'goal sheet' showed that." Richard Plews

"That's the biggest challenge when the margins are so small. For him to commit to the change it's a brave thing, it might go backwards."

They also wanted to try to manifest his ability into confidence on-court; the preseason split between Roehampton and the Bahamas played a role in this alongside the work of his strength and conditioning coach Ian Prangley.

"To be able to produce in 40-degree heat against very, very good tennis players was the goal, as he did against Kevin Anderson in round one [in Australia]," Hilton said. "These players are going through ups and downs over a year. Winning solves a lot of issues, belief and trust in the game. Getting over the line in matches, he didn't have that mentality in the past as it is tough."

And with those wins came confidence, a bullishness in his own ability that showed when he bellowed "get the referee, I'm not having it" in challenge to chair umpire John Blom during his semifinal with Cilic.

Hilton watched from London, keeping a close eye on his phone as his wife Laura was due to give birth to their second child last Monday. The wait goes on, but Hilton has now had time to reflect on Edmund's Australian Open journey.

"It gives him a belief that he can be there in those back ends of tournaments," Hilton said. "He's still very young in his career so to have that experience will stand him well, give him confidence knowing he can go deep in those events. It is strong, but he knows about the small margins.

"The Davis Cup is hugely important for him, to represent his country and the success they've had from 2015 and it means everything to him.

Recalling Edmunds' attitude as a 10-year-old, Plews added: "He was always serious. On one of the trips, I can't recall exactly when it was, but he asked whether he could make it. To be fair, I gave a stock answer, but I said 'yeah, of course you can, if you can remain as focused.' It was a serious question, from a little kid. He's always had his eyes on the end game and that original goal sheet showed that.

"He came out of that semifinal with Cilic with a lot of credit. There's nothing negative at all to take from the experience. He won five matches back-to-back at the elite level. It's great news for Team GB."