A full 20 months after he last played a competitive match of tennis, Kyle Edmund is set to return to action at Wimbledon as he looks to rediscover his identity.
Two operations on his knee, and a minor procedure two months ago, have kept Edmund on the sidelines since October 2020, but he will make his comeback in the mixed doubles at SW19 alongside compatriot Olivia Nicholls against American pair Coco Gauff and Jack Sock.
While he insists that retirement never entered his thoughts, the long absence was tough to take as the former British No.1 was left to question his purpose in life.
He explained: “It was tough. No doubt about it. It obviously taught me a lot of things. I have only known tennis for my whole career really. So when I didn’t have that, there was times where I was speaking to someone and I was saying like, I feel like I’ve lost my identity.
“I’ve only known tennis, like I’m a tennis player. So now I don’t have that. What am I doing? Every time I wake up in the morning, I have no purpose.
“That was stuff I struggled with. It was just, like, waking up and — I would do rehab and go to the gym, but at that time I could only kind of do 30 minutes or an hour of rehab and it was very light.
“Then the rest of the day, I was kind of just like, you know, I’m not doing what I want to do.
“For a long time, it was tough in that way. Just mentally and obviously watching stuff on TV, and seeing the guys that you played against playing on tour, and just experiencing that.”
Edmund, now 27, had been struggling with knee pain for two years before the first operation to try to resolve the issue.
When that failed, he underwent a second surgery, more invasive this time, in March 2021. The recovery from that was a slow process and it was not until this February this year that it began to speed up with a trip to the States to see renowned rehab specialist Bill Knowles in Philadelphia proving a major help.
Initially the hope was to play singles at Wimbledon before a setback and the minor procedure at the start of May pushed that back.
And while the former Australian Open semi-finalist will at last get his chance to get back out on court, he revealed that even after all these interventions, this is a knee injury that will be with him for good.
He said: “I will constantly be dealing with it. It’s not like now that I’ve had three ops it’s all fixed. I will constantly be dealing with it.
“But I’m happy where I’m at and I can enjoy playing now and just wake up and be a tennis player rather than a professional rehabber, which was what I was feeling for a long time.”
The next target for Edmund after the mixed doubles will be a return to singles in time for the upcoming American season and the US Open.
But after everything he has been through in the last two years, simply being back at Wimbledon is a victory in itself.
He added: “I wasn’t able to pick a racquet up for like five or six months. It was just too sore. It was sore to go up and down stairs.
“So to be able to hit now, you know, with the best players in the world or be at this tournament, even if it is the mixed doubles in terms of I’m not playing the singles, but it’s a start for me. Just to be playing again is great, to be honest.”
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PHOTO CAPTION: Former British number one Kyle Edmund at Wimbledon in 2019, he’s back for 2022 in the mixed doubles only (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)