The crowds at Wimbledon this fortnight will have an array of British players to cheer on, but one in particular will be relishing the opportunity to step on court in front of his home fans. Two-time tour-level titlist Kyle Edmund is set to partner fellow Briton Olivia Nicholls in the mixed doubles, his first competitive action since October 2020 following a long-term knee problem.
“It's great, to be honest,” said Edmund at his press conference in London on Wednesday. “I have been out a long time. For me, just being back playing a match to start with feels like a reward for me, just to be back and playing.
“Being around here now, I have spent a couple of weeks hitting with everyone, practising with people. For me, it just wasn't so much about being here to win. It was just more being back amongst it and stuff. Around the players, the tournament, I have missed it a lot. I had to watch a lot of TV with people. It definitely feels good.”
Edmund was No. 47 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings when he last played a competitive match in qualifying at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna in October 2020. It was then that the former World No. 14 decided he needed to take action to address a knee problem he had been playing through up to that point.
“It was just sore to play on, so I played on it for a while, probably a couple years,” said the 27-year-old. “I obviously missed quite a lot of 2020 with the no tournaments.
"So, I kind of [thought], 'Okay, I'm going to train through this and make it better,’ but just couldn't quite get there. I was like, 'I don't really want to play the rest of my career feeling like this. So, let's do something about it.'”
Edmund underwent surgery in November 2020, but that only proved to be the beginning of a long road back.
“It just took a long time,” he said. “It's not an injury that heals by itself, and there is no straightforward procedure to have. It's just something that's now part of my life. I have just accepted that.
“I will constantly be dealing with it. It's not like now that I've had three ops it's all fixed. But I'm happy where I'm at and I can enjoy playing now and just wake up and be a tennis player rather than a professional rehabber, which was what I was feeling for a long time.”
As well as a physical battle, Edmund admitted the mental challenge of dealing with such a long-term injury has been tough. But the Briton believes he has come out the other side with a new, improved outlook on his life on Tour.
“It obviously taught me a lot of things,” said Edmund. “I have only known tennis for my whole career really. So, when I didn't have that, there were times where I was speaking to someone and I was saying, 'I feel like I've lost my identity. I've only known tennis. I'm a tennis player. So now I don't have that. What am I doing? Every time I wake up in the morning, I have no purpose.'
“So it taught me a lot in that way and what I did have, really. [Once] I didn't have it, you take things a lot less for granted. I wouldn't say I'm a person that took everything for granted and was arrogant in that way, but I just realised what I did have.”
Edmund reached his career-high of No. 14 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in October 2018. The Briton has long-term ambitions to get back to the top of the game, but he is not putting himself under any pressure with fixed tangible goals.
“It's not really [about] where I get to. It's more like, can I put myself in a position to play the tournaments which then allow me to win matches? Can I put myself in a position to be able to play at a level where I can beat the guys to then get to the later rounds of tournaments?
“That's ultimately the goal, but right now it's just enjoying being here, really. I wasn't able to pick a racquet up for like five or six months. It was just too sore. It was sore to go up and down stairs. So, to be able to hit now with the best players in the world or be at this tournament, it's a start for me. Just to be playing again is great, to be honest.
“At times I didn’t know where this was going. I didn't know how I was going to get back playing. So it feels like a reward for me to be here.”