London - As Andy Murray watched a ferocious
forehand from Kyle Edmund whistle past him, the world number two ruefully
realised that the future of British tennis might finally be in good hands.
Since the retirements of Tim Henman and
Greg Rusedski in 2007, former Wimbledon champion Murray has been Britain's lone
standard bearer in the upper echelons of the men's tour.
But the 29-year-old's recent experiences at
Queen's Club suggests a new generation could be worthy of following in his
footsteps just in time for the start of Wimbledon on Monday.
For years, Murray's compatriots have been
dispatched from their home Grand Slam in such a hurry that the tournament is
usually not more than 24 hours old before the blame game begins as the British
media turn their guns on everyone from the players to the Lawn Tennis
Association and the sporting public's apathetic attitude to tennis outside
Such has been the dearth of quality players
to emerge from Britain since Murray burst onto the scene in 2005 that the
Scot's Queen's second round tie against Aljaz Bedene was the first time he had
played a fellow Brit since an encounter with Henman a decade earlier.
Slovenia-born Bedene batted gamely before
succumbing to a straight sets defeat that gave both the world number 55 and
Murray encouragement that there is better to come from the 26-year-old.
"He serves well, has a nice forehand
and he's quick," Murray said.
"He'll get better. I don't think 58 or
50 will be his best ranking. He'll go higher than that."
Perhaps even more significantly, the
genteel lawns of Queen's, where Murray picked up the oversized trophy for a
record fifth time, provided the setting for 21-year-old Edmund's breakthrough
At the venue where Murray clinched his
first tour-level match win 11 years ago, South Africa-born Edmund gave a
brilliant display to defeat French world number 18 Gilles Simon in the first
In a year in which the world number 68 has
already won two second-tier Challenger tournaments, there was more evidence of
Edmund's vast potential when he matched Murray blow for blow in the Queen's
Keeping Murray on the back foot with his
powerful groundstrokes and bullet serve, Edmund became the first player to take
a set off the defending champion in this year's tournament.
And although Murray eventually recovered to
win in three sets, his Davis Cup team-mate had done enough to convince him of a
"If you want to get to the top of the
game, you need to have weapons and he has them," Murray said.
"The forehand, it's a big shot, but
the serve isn't slow either. So when he's landing first serves and then getting
the first shot of the rally on his forehand, he can dictate a lot of points.
"I've spent a lot of time with him on
the practice courts and there's no reason why he can't get himself up into the
top 20 in the world. From there you never know."
Murray clearly remains the headline act in
British tennis and it might be too much to expect Edmund or Bedene to emulate
But for now Murray is just pleased by his
country's baby steps in the right direction.
Britain can expect its biggest Wimbledon
contingent in singles play for a decade this year, with at least 13 players
guaranteed places in the men's and women's draw.
"Obviously it's not perfect just now
but it's better. That's progress," Murray said.
"I hadn't played against a Brit for 10
years, so the fact there are a few more around or winning matches on a more
consistent basis is positive."