A nation expects: Edmund shoulders burden of facing Djokovic
When Andy Murray was ending Britain's 76-year wait for a Grand Slam champion at the US Open in 2012, a teenage Kyle Edmund was recovering from a morale-sapping loss at a third-tier event in Canada, earning the princely sum of $200 in the process.
Fast forward six years and it is Edmund who carries British hopes at Wimbledon as his compatriots -- 11 of them -- respect the age-old All England Club tradition of getting knocked out by Thursday afternoon.
The pressure is double on Edmund, the world number 17, as two-time Wimbledon champion Murray withdrew on the eve of the tournament due to his long-standing hip injury.
Edmund also now has the arduous task of having to face three-time champion Novak Djokovic in Saturday's third round.
"Playing Djokovic is always tough," said 25-year-old Edmund who earned his first win over the Serb in Madrid this year after three successive losses.
"For sure, when you beat someone, it always gives you that confidence, for sure the belief that you can beat them.
"I remember playing reasonably well that day. But he's playing well, winning pretty comfortably both his matches here.
"He's one of the best players of all time. For sure, there's always that massive respect. I'm just going to go out there and do my best."
Edmund enjoyed his first win on Centre Court on Thursday when he saw off American qualifier Bradley Klahn.
His run to the third round this year is comfortably his best at the tournament having lost in the first round for five successive years until he broke the shackles in 2017.
This year has been a breakthrough season from a shock run to the Australian Open semi-finals through to beating Murray in Eastbourne on the eve of Wimbledon.
- Overdrive -
However, with his match on Saturday likely to clash with England's World Cup quarter-final against Sweden, he knows national expectation is in overdrive.
"For sure you want to be on that stage," said the South African-born Edmund.
"That's why you put in all the hard work and the countless hours to put yourself in situations like that, playing the best in the world on the biggest stage. That's where you want to be."
After a difficult 12 months which followed his injury-enforced withdrawal in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Djokovic is again resembling the player who went to world number one and collected 12 Grand Slam titles.
He has made the third round with the minimum fuss, dropping just 12 games in six sets.
"Kyle is very devoted. He has very good ethics, a hard worker, puts in the hours necessary on the court and in the gym to get himself to best possible shape," said Djokovic, seeded 12 this year despite a ranking of 21.
"He's top 20 player, he's going towards the top 10. He won against me this year in Madrid. He won against Dimitrov. Reached semis of Australian Open.
"I mean, he certainly has the capacity and the quality to compete at the highest level. He's a hometown favourite now that Murray is not here. There's a lot of expectations and pressure on his back. But he's handling it pretty well so far."
© 2018 AFP