It’s not often that a player ranked No. 45 in world winds up playing in the qualifying of an ATP tournament.
But that’s precisely what happened Saturday as world No. 45 Kyle Edmund advanced through the first round of qualifying at the Winston-Salem Open with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Max Purcell.
Edmund didn’t decide to enter the WSO until earlier in the week, after losing his first-round match in Cincinnati. That was long after the WSO entry deadline in July, and that meant he his only way into the Main Draw was to advance through qualifying.
The 22-year-old Brit was blunt when asked why he decided to come to Winston-Salem.
“Matches,” he said. “I came here to play matches.”
Edmund started slowly but eventually had little difficulty in dispatching Purcell, an Australian who came to the WSO ranked No. 342. Edmund dominated the tie-break, and then got a break early in the second set and cruised from there.
His biggest task may have been overcoming the severe mid-afternoon heat.
“It was physically tough,” Edmund said. “Close first set and then I started to play some extra hard points to win, and then the second set I felt better with my rhythm and tempo, and trying to manage the conditions better. It was good for me. It was one of those, if I win I’m expected to win, but if I lose then it’s a bad loss. So it’s nice to come through.”
Edmund had gone out in the first round at Cincinnati earlier this week, and that is what prompted his decision to come to Winston-Salem. He also lost in the first round at Montreal, and fell in the second round (his first match) in Washington. Before that, he had started the summer hard court season by reaching the semifinals in Atlanta.
He is still encouraged by his recent play.
“It’s good,” he said. “Every match I’ve lost, I’ve lost in three sets to some good players. Dimitrov. Ferrer. And then Sousa last week. Those guys have had good tournaments, obviously Dimitrov in Cincinnati, and I just haven’t managed to find a way through those matches, which obviously I would have liked to have done. But they have all been close matches and it just hasn’t clicked for me in the third set.”
Edmund, by the way, was unaware of the history of qualifier success here at the Winston-Salem Open. In 2011, Julien Benneteau made it all the way from qualies to the finals, where he lost to John Isner. And in 2015, Pierre-Hugues Herbert also made it out of qualies to reach the finals, where he lost to Kevin Anderson.
Would Edmund, who is still in search of his first career ATP World Tour title, like to follow in their footsteps?
“It would be great to see it happen again,” Edmund said. “But you don’t really think about it. I don’t pick which round I want to do, this round or that round. I just want to do my best. That was the idea, to come play matches this week. If you just think about one match, it’s easier to process and stuff. It’s healthy to think that way in my opinion.”
Wake Forest rising sophomore Borna Gojo also made headlines on Saturday with a thrilling 7-6 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (6) victory over Ruben Bemelmans, the qualifying third seed. Gojo was a wild card in qualifying. He needed six match points before finally winning, but that was more than fine with him.
“It’s amazing, really,” Gojo said. “First time I played a top 100 player and to be able to win at the end after having a couple of match points before the tiebreak, I’m just glad I stayed tough and won at the end. The heat was hard, really hard. But when you play a player like this for the first time, it’s adrenaline. It’s all adrenaline. So I felt good the whole match.”
Bemelmans came into the match ranked No. 100.
“I’m almost in shock,” Gojo said. “To get an opportunity like this to play a top 100 player, on my court, it’s amazing. I kind of put in my head before the match that I had never lost on this court in college matches, and I didn’t want to lose today.”
In other first-round qualifying matches, Jonathan Eysseric beat Facundo Mena 6-3, 6-4; Alex Bolt beat Wake Forest’s Skander Mansouri 7-6 (12), 6-2; Kevin King beat Alex DeMinaur 6-1, 6-2; Dominik Koepfer beat Franko Skugor 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3; and Rogerio Dutra Silva beat Gonzalo Escobar 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5.