Kyle Edmund humbled by overtaking Andy Murray as British No. 1

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A passing of the baton?

Kyle Edmund says he is humbled at having become the British number one, a position he took up on Monday as the latest ATP rankings were released.

Andy Murray‘s nine-month absence due to injury has allowed rising star Edmund to take up the domestic crown, becoming only the 12th player in the Open Era to be British No. 1.

“It is humbling to become the British number one,” Edmund said on Sunday night, adding that he achieved the milestone “perhaps unwittingly, as Andy has dropped down in rankings due to his injury”.

“Proud as I am, I would have been much happier had Andy stayed healthy and occupied his place at the very top where he belongs.

“I wish Andy a speedy recovery and I hope to battle it out with him in a more legitimate fashion in years to come.”

British tennis has not had a serious battle for supremacy since the days of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in the early 2000s, as Murray has reigned ever since his rise to prominence, but Edmund’s emergence raises the prospects of a true rivalry – and perhaps one with a partisan flavour, considering Edmund’s status a true blue Englishman and Murray’s Scottish roots.

Edmund, who has been out for the past fortnight himself with a flu, added, “I’ll continue to work hard and represent Great Britain as best as I can. A bad dose of the flu virus kept me out in Buenos Aires and in Rio but I am back on track and excited to get back to it. I’m ready to play in Indian Wells [which starts on Monday] and Miami [19 March].”

The latest rankings sees Edmund move up one place to 24th, while Murray has slipped to 29th, his lowest ranking in eight years. However, the Scot has beaten his counterpart on the two occasions they’ve met on the ATP tour.

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Things learned from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships men's week

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Two weeks of world-class tennis have wrapped up in Dubai with Roberto Bautista Agut reigning supreme over Lucas Pouille in the men’s final on Saturday.

For a tournament that was missing its usual stars, it still managed to deliver quality and excitement.

From an Arab surprise run to a teenage breakthrough to the desert rain that played mind tricks on the players, there was no shortage of action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Here are five things learned from the 26th edition of the ATP tournament.

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

Making his sixth consecutive main draw appearance in Dubai, the 34-year-old Malek Jaziri stole home hearts by upsetting world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov in his opening round to claim the first top-10 victory of his career, then marched to the semi-finals to become the first Arab to make it that far at the tournament since Younes El Aynaoui in 2002.

It was Jaziri’s first ATP 500 semi-final and it catapulted the Tunisian 33 spots up the rankings to get back to 84 in the world.

Jaziri is a late bloomer who hit his career-high ranking of 47 last year, aged 33. On a tour that has a 36-year-old Roger Federer winning Slams and getting to No. 1, and a 33-year-old Gilles Muller capturing a maiden ATP title last year, it really is never too late to hit new heights in the world of tennis. Jaziri, who was 0-10 against top-10 opposition prior to his win over Dimitrov, is yet another example of that.

THREE CHEERS FOR THE CROWD

Roger Federer didn’t come, only two from the top-10 showed up and one of them lost in the first round and it rained… but guess what? It didn’t matter in the end. The last few days of the tournament witnessed great crowds that even prompted the umpire in the final to commend them on their Mexican wave.

“Thank you ladies and gentlemen, that was amazing, players are ready!” is not something you hear every day from a match official.

Tunisian fans turned up in scores to support Jaziri but the stadium was also buzzing during the final between Bautista Agut and Pouille.

Dubai loves its tennis. And while there’s no debating the unmatchable popularity of Federer, this week showed us that even if the stars aren’t in town, there is genuine passion for the sport and the event.

MIXED VIEWS ON DAVIS CUP OVERHAUL

The ITF’s proposal to completely revamp the Davis Cup in partnership with a company headed by footballer Gerard Pique was of course a hot topic in the Dubai press centre this past week and it’s clear players are not united in their views on the matter.

Bautista Agut said he welcomes the idea of a big money investment in tennis while Pouille described the proposal as a “death sentence” to the Davis Cup. The two Dubai finalists aren’t the only people on opposite ends of this debate. It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out when the plan is voted on at the ITF’s Annual General Meeting in August.

TSITSIPAS LOVES THE MIDDLE EAST

I’m not just guessing that because he made the quarter-finals in both Doha and Dubai this season. He actually told me so.

The 19-year-old Greek wildcard Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his first ATP 500 quarter-final in the Emirates, taking out Mikhail Kukushkin and Philipp Kohlschreiber before losing to Jaziri. He hits a new career-high ranking of 71 on Monday. Keep an eye out for this Next Gen star this season.

POUILLE’S MATURING

Pouille played one match in January, and he lost it. It was his fifth consecutive Australian Open first round defeat. He is 0-5 in Melbourne. He then got injured and didn’t play Davis Cup. Instead of wallowing, he decided to snap out of it.

The Frenchman gave himself a pep talk, acknowledged he was putting needless pressure on his shoulders and tried to get rid of it. The result was reaching three finals in four weeks and winning one of them. He was outplayed by Bautista Agut in the final but can still take lots of confidence from his past month.

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Lucas Pouille suffers second final loss in seven days but takes positives from Dubai week

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He may have lost his second final in seven days but Lucas Pouille insists he walks away with lots of positives from his week in Dubai.

The Frenchman, who lost to Karen Khachanov in the Marseille title match last Sunday, was hoping to secure a spot in the top-10 for the first time in his career but fell short by just one victory as he fell to Roberto Bautista Agut in Saturday’s final at the Aviation Club.

Appearing in his third final in four weeks, Pouille played 14 matches since the start of February and looked sluggish against an overpowering Bautista Agut.

But the 24-year-old refused to blame fatigue for his defeat against the Spaniard, and gave him full credit after the match.

“I think the only thing is that Roberto was too good today. He played some great tennis this week so a big congratulations to him and his team, you guys are doing some great work and I wish you all the best for this year,” Pouille said on court during the trophy ceremony.

The Dubai resident will rise to a career-high No. 12 on Monday, and is hoping to take his good form into Indian Wells and Miami, where he has great opportunity to pick up points having lost early in both last year.

“I tried very hard until the end. He was, yeah, just better than me today. Now I need some rest, need to travel to the States. It’s a long travel, long jet-lag with 12 hours. I really need to try to be ready for Indian Wells,” said Pouille, whose record in finals now is 5-4.

Looking back at his week in the Emirates, he added: “It would have been better with a victory, so that’s why it’s not fantastic.

“No, it was a good week. Very positive things, a lot of positive things. We’ll see how it goes for the few coming weeks.

“Anyway, I’m very happy with the way I played, with the way I managed the transition between Marseille and here because it was really close. I don’t know, I didn’t really know how to deal with it. But I’m very happy with the way I did. Now I need to look forward.”

Pouille is now No. 9 in the ATP Race to London and he admits making it to the season finale – where only the year’s top-eight compete – is a main goal for him in 2018.

His list of objectives for the season is not a modest one.

“Reaching top 10, trying to be in London at the end of the season. That’s definitely one of my goals. Winning as many titles as possible, go as far as possible in the Grand Slams especially,” said Pouille, who owns five ATP titles and has reached two quarter-finals at the Slams so far.

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