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Kyle Edmund on staying fit in lockdown and the loneliness of tennis

PIC: Steven Paston/PA

By Prudence Wade

Kyle Edmund should currently be on-court, battling his way through the Wimbledon Championships.

However, like so many events this year, the annual tournament – which was meant to run for two weeks from June 29 – has been cancelled.

Instead of touring the world playing against top tennis players, Edmund has been spending more time at home than he has since he was 12 years old.

“When I first started in lockdown, I was just sort of floating around a bit,” Edmund admits – but he swiftly realised this wasn’t ideal. “When I put a routine in place, it really helped me.

“My whole life I’ve had routines, I’ve had a schedule, because that’s what you need to do in tennis: to plan. Suddenly, when there’s nothing to plan for, it really showed me that having routines in your life helps you operate and function much better.”

With professional matches off the table – except for a one-off tournament called Battle of the Brits, where he lost in the final to Dan Evans – Edmund has been working hard on his fitness. “I go on runs, I’ve been doing hill sprints, I’ve got a wattbike in the garage – I put a bit of a gym set up in my garage as well,” he says. “I’ve used the time to do some physical work on my fitness that I probably wouldn’t have had the time to do before.”

While so many of us have struggled to keep up motivation for at-home workouts, Edmund is arguably programmed differently. “To be honest, I was pretty motivated at training and pushed myself pretty hard – I think being a tennis player, you’ve got a good work ethic in place,” he says.

Edmund says the pandemic has also given him an opportunity to “reflect a little bit on my career and my tennis. I guess [it’s given] lots of people time to do a lot of thinking.”

He’s also had time for his hobbies, which isn’t always the case on the tennis circuit. As well as loving Lego, Edmund is “big into my car racing. I’ve got a toy at home that’s like a PC game with a proper steering wheel and pedals. It’s definitely not an essential – it’s sort of a boy thing to do that my mum wasn’t happy about, but I got it because I like it!”

That’s another aspect of the year that’s been unusual for Edmund: actually getting to spend time with his family. “I’ve only ever seen them in pockets,” he says. Born in South Africa, Edmund was raised in East Yorkshire but has spent most of his life travelling for tennis. Now, he’s based in Surrey, saying: “It was nice for me personally because I could see my family for like two to three months, and be at home with them.”

The current state of the world has caused many to struggle with their mental health, but Edmund says he’s managed to keep fairly level-headed throughout the pandemic.

He describes himself as “quite a quiet and shy person” and says that talking to family and coaches, he’s realised he tends to “bottle up things,” which can impact his tennis. “I’ve always tended to bottle up stuff and then eventually it will come out in one massive go, but I’ve learned that if, a bit more frequently, I open up and communicate, it just helps.”

He says this isn’t always easy, describing tennis as “a very lonely sport”, and as a singles player, can spend lots of time alone in hotel rooms. “Tennis is an individual sport, it’s not a team game. All your thoughts are down to you – you make all the decisions. When it doesn’t go your way, it’s on you, but at the same time, when it does go your way, you’re credited. It’s tough because you’re constantly battling your own thoughts.”

For now, Edmund is home and gearing up for a big 2021 – expect to see him all guns blazing at Wimbledon. “Once it comes around,” he says, “there will be even more anticipation because we missed a year.”

(PA)