Alize Cornet claimed her first WTA title in nearly two years with a straight-sets win over Eugenie Bouchard at the Hobart International.
The Frenchwoman dominated throughout the 6-1 6-2 victory, breaking serve seven times on her way to victory in just under an hour.
Cornet told the WTA’s official website: “Each time we’ve played against each other, it was a tough battle and at least two hours, three sets or two tight sets. This time, I was just a little bit better from the beginning of the match.
“I was patient, trying to be aggressive but trying to play the right shot at the right time. It all worked out my way and it’s just great to have an easy final like this because finals are already so emotional.”
Staying in a swanky five-star beachfront hotel, riding in fancy BMWs to and from the tennis club, and more importantly, getting his laundry taken care of; life on the ATP World Tour is something young Brit Kyle Edmund could definitely get used to.
After playing predominantly on the Challenger Tour in an attempt to move up the ranks, Edmund rang in the New Year by qualifying for the main draw of the ATP 250 event in Doha.
By January 12 he had hit not one but two milestones: he reached his first ATP quarter-final and rose to a career-high ranking of No88 – a leap that sees him edge closer to the big leagues, where he would enjoy more and more perks.
But while Edmund, who turned 21 last week, appreciates the comforts that come with the main tour, he says his mentality does not change whether he’s competing in the sport’s lowest tier or biggest events.
“If you’re on the main tour it makes a lot of things a lot more comfortable, a lot of stuff is there for you,” Edmund told Sport360 in Doha, where he ended up falling to Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals after winning four straight matches.
“Food is there for you, we’ve got a great buffet here, the hotel is extremely nice, transport to and from the club and the hotel… those sort of things make life a lot easier and it’s probably a bit more enjoyable to be on the (ATP) Tour than say the Challenger Tour.
“For instance laundry isn’t provided (at Challengers), you have to find your own laundry, but here you just give it in and it’s done the next day. There’s little things like that, I guess.
“But the mentality doesn’t change in terms of getting on the practice court. You still have to work extremely hard, matches are even tougher because you’re playing better guys. It is tough, the work, but there are good rewards for it obviously.”
The rewards have been pouring in for Edmund recently. Last year, he won three Challenger titles to crack into the top-100 for the first time and he bookended his season by making his Davis Cup debut, incidentally in the final, to become part of the history-making team that ended Great Britain’s 79-year title drought in the competition.
Playing his first-ever rubber, Edmund took a shocking two-set lead over Belgium’s world No16 David Goffin before he fell in five sets. It was an admirable effort that kicked off a historic final and it earned him a place on the stage when the British Davis Cup team received their BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year award in Belfast last month.
“To be involved in the team that won the Davis Cup was obviously special, I never thought I’d be part of a winning Davis Cup team, and then for me to make my debut – for one, playing for your country is a great experience but then the fact it was in the final made it even better. I was grateful about the opportunity and the experience,” said Edmund.
After Davis Cup, Edmund took 12 days off before he got back on the court to train for 2016, joined by his new coach Ryan Jones.
In December, Edmund experienced a training block in Dubai at the Aviation Club with Davis Cup team-mate and world No2 Andy Murray, who has made it a habit of taking young British players under his wing by having them join him in pre-season preparations.
Murray had invited Edmund in the past to his training base in Miami and he even hosted the young Brit in his apartment there.
Edmund was one of very few players who were on Murray’s wedding guest list last April and while he couldn’t make it due to playing commitments, he made up for it by gifting him a caricature of Murray, his wife Kim and their two dogs.
“It’s probably been three or four years since we first started hitting together,” says Edmund, whose low, serious voice sounds a lot like Murray. “For me, being a 20-year-old coming up, I’m very fortunate that I get to learn from the No2 in the world. There’s no one better to learn from and practice with. I’ve been very fortunate that he’s given me the opportunity to do that.
“It’s just being around him, picking up tips, seeing what he does. His work ethic is something that is very high and obvious to see and it shows why he’s tough to beat on court, why he’s as fit as he is and why he does so well.”
Edmund has a training week planned with Murray before the Davis Cup first round (March 4-6) and he says he doesn’t just learn from the Scot by watching him, he also gets sound advice from him.
“He does give me advice and there’s an instance where he gave my coach some advice, like an observation on footwork, or something tactically. It helps that he’s interested in what I’m doing which I don’t take for granted that’s for sure,” says Edmund.
As Britain’s No3 player, behind Murray and Slovenian-turned-Brit Aljaz Bedene,
Edmund might begin to feel the pressure of carrying the future hopes of the sport in his home country.
He is grateful that, for the moment, all the attention remains on Murray but he knows the day may come where he is Britain’s man in the spotlight.
“When you play there’s always pressure on you. There’s personal pressures, like I pressure myself to do well because I have personal goals and expectations, so if I lose I’m disappointed.
“So you’re always playing with that little bit of pressure on yourself. Whatever it is, you want to do well if your mum and dad are watching.
“And then from the British tennis point of view… I haven’t really thought of it because I need to get to the top, I’m still not that close at the minute so it’s still a process for me.
“I’m getting closer, I’m trying to improve, but it’s something I haven’t really thought of that much and haven’t really been exposed to, because at the minute Andy is still playing.”
Edmund started playing tennis when he was 10 years old and he only took it up when his mother suggested it as a way to do something useful while his sister was taking swimming lessons each weekend.
Three years later, he moved to join a tennis academy in the south of England and he says things progressed naturally for him in the sport, without needing to make a conscious decision to go pro – it just happened.
“It is amazing to look back and think what would happen because if I hadn’t chosen tennis I have no idea what I’d be doing,” he admits. Playing cricket is one possibility he reckons.
Looking ahead to this season, Edmund, who will feature in the Australian Open main draw, explains he is a goal-oriented person but doesn’t use rankings as a target.
“Last year I was on the Challenger Tour, this year I want to be on the main tour a lot more, which is a goal. I have goals in my game I’m working on, working on my serve a lot, recently I’m trying to work on my movement a lot more,” says Edmund.
“I try to focus on raising my game and I know if my game improves, the ranking will too. I don’t set number targets, I know some people do, I guess I could, I just think if I set a number target and I don’t achieve it, then it’s like ‘oh you failed’.
“But then if you do reach it, you can think it wasn’t tough enough. I don’t know. I just try and do the best I can and whatever ranking I am, I am.”
When Milos Raonic addressed the press in Abu Dhabi during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship early this month, the Canadian exuded so much confidence and spoke with such gusto, it was impossible not to sit up and take him seriously.
“I’m very confident… I feel like I can do really good things. I’m playing well, I’m fit, and damn it if I’m not hungry,” were his closing statements in the UAE capital.
Eight days later, Raonic defeated Roger Federer for just the second time in 11 meetings between them, to lift the Brisbane trophy last Sunday and turn his words into action so early in the new season.
After spending most of 2015 dealing with injuries, first a nerve problem in his foot that required surgery and forced him to miss the French Open, and more recently back spasms that ended his season prematurely, Raonic is finally fit and healthy and raring to go once again.
One interesting stat from Raonic’s win over a flu-struck Federer in Brisbane is that he ventured up to the net 25 times and won 20 of those points.
With his serve being such a gigantic weapon, it’s great to see the 25-year-old capitalising on it by taking his game up to the net.
Raonic has already shown his grand slam potential when he made the semis at Wimbledon in 2014 and reached the Australian Open and French Open quarter-finals in 2015 and 2014 respectively.
If he does indeed remain fit this season, you can’t help but think he could pop up in a grand slam final this year.
Player of the week – Sloane Stephens
Getting her first win over Caroline Wozniacki in the Auckland semi-finals and then stepping on the court a few hours later on the same day to defeat Julia Goerges for her second career title was quite the statement from the American.
Is Stephens due another strong Australian Open run reminiscent of her 2013 march to the semis? Definitely one to watch Down Under.
Flop of the week – David Ferrer
Losing in the first round at a tournament you won last year is hardly the way you’d want to start a new season.
Ferrer’s loss to Illya Marchenko in Doha was an unfortunate hit for the Spaniard, who has four more titles to defend this year.