NEW YORK – First they came with muskets. Then they brought guitars. And now another British invasion of America is afoot—this time with rackets.
Andy Murray, Johanna Konta, Daniel Evans and Kyle Edmund might not be creating the frenzy caused by the arrival of The Beatles (or, frankly, the arrival of the redcoats), but the quartet has combined for one of Britain’s most successful first weeks at the U.S. Open in recent memory.
This year marks the first time since 1968 that three British men have reached the third round of the U.S. Open. And entering the weekend, two Brits—Edmund and Konta—have secured places in the last 16, with Murray expected to join. Murray has reached the second week of Grand Slam tournaments for more than a decade, but has never had the company of a fellow British player.
Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion and the winner of Wimbledon and Olympic gold this summer, is no stranger to the later stages of the tournament. But even by Murray standards, the No. 2 seed is playing nearly flawless tennis so far, blowing by Lukas Rosol and Marcel Granollers in straight sets to start his tournament. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the favorite.
On the women’s side, No. 13 seed Johanna Konta, who reached the Australian Open semifinal this year, advanced to the fourth round on Friday after pulverizing Belinda Bencic, who is generally considered one of the WTA’s most promising young players.
Konta’s victory wasn’t a shock, but the 6-2, 6-1 scoreline certainly was—especially after Wednesday, when she won in three sets after collapsing mid–match.
“I think it was quite a traumatic experience. I’m just still working on getting better. I think the best I can do for myself is move on from it, and I felt I did that,” Konta said. “I focused on the match that I had today, and now I feel very lucky that I have got another chance to focus on the match I will have on Sunday.”
The other British invaders are more of a surprise. Daniel Evans, currently ranked No. 64 in the world, has never cracked the ATP Top 50. But late on Thursday night, he unexpectedly beat Alexander Zverev, the 19-year-old German wunderkind. Zverev may still be a future No. 1 and Grand Slam champion, but on Thursday night he was on Court 4, smashing his racket as Evans beat him 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
Evans’s win was one of the biggest of his career, and it places the 26-year-old into the third round of a Grand Slam for the third time. In 2013, he lost in the third round of the U.S. Open to Tommy Robredo, and earlier this year he fell to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon third round. This time, he’ll play No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Saturday evening.
And then there’s Kyle Edmund. On Friday evening, despite playing against American favorite and No. 20-seed John Isner, Edmund was unshakeable. The partisan crowd, Isner’s big serve, losing the second-set—nothing seemed to faze the 21-year-old, who remained remarkably composed throughout the match, which Edmund won 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(5).
Edmunds’s groundstrokes, particularly with his topspin–heavy forehand, were machine–like. He hit just 24 unforced errors, and he consistently placed his tremendous down-the-line forehand past Isner’s long arms, racking up 20 forehand winners. The No. 84-ranked Edmund didn’t rattle, even in the biggest moments: He won three of four break points, recovered from 0-40 in a critical first game of the third set and clinched victory in a fourth–set tiebreaker. And he did it in front of a fervent pro–Isner crowd, replete with American flag clothing and “I Believe” chants.
The atmosphere, Edmund said, was like a Davis Cup.
“I was pleased with my consistency throughout the match. Weren’t too many dips. On that stage, as well, in front of a good crowd, a big crowd, against John in his own country,” Edmund said. “I was pleased with the performance I put out there.”
What made Friday’s result even more surprising was their result three months ago at the French Open, where Isner beat Edmund in straight sets.
Edmund reached the third round by beating No. 13 Richard Gasquet and 20-year-old American Ernesto Escobedo. It’s a fact that wasn’t lost on Evans.
“Everyone's doing pretty well at the minute," Evans said after his match against Zverev. "It could easily have been different. Kyle played [Richard] Gasquet. I played [Rajeev] Ram. We both could lose those matches.”
The British invasion of the U.S. Open appears headed for its Yorktown: Evans is set to face Wawrinka, while Edmund will face Novak Djokovic. Konta will be expected to win her fourth–round match against Anastasija Sevastova, with a tough matchup against either Caroline Wozniacki or No. 8-seed Madison Keys looming.
“We’re all doing really well. It’s a really good thing, I think. We’re going up and up,” Edmund said, pausing for a second. “Obviously Andy isn’t going up. He’s been there for ages.”