Joburg ‘derby’ at Australian Open

Kyle Edmund (AP)
Kyle Edmund (AP)

Cape Town - One of the two combatants in what is widely touted among the highlight match-ups in the first round of next week's Australian Open resides in Gulf Stream, Florida in the United States and the other in equally balmy Nassau in the Bahamas.

But what links 11th seeded and world-ranked, USA-based Kevin Anderson indelibly with the 49th-ranked Kyle Edmund - beyond the recollection that their only previous encounter in last year's French Open produced a torrid encounter in which Anderson barely edged out a 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 five-set victory - is that both were born in Johannesburg, South Africa.

And although the 6-foot-8 Anderson is now 31 and the 6-foot-2 Edmund only turned 23 earlier this week, there are already a number of distinct similarities - as well as contrasting dissimilarities - between the pair of erstwhile Johannesburgers.

Both, while not residing in South Africa - Edmund in fact is now an English citizen after his family immigrated to that country - possess repertoires that are based on irresistible big-serving games.

And Edmund's career achievements might now be perched somewhere in the vicinity of where Anderson was eight years ago, with that assessment designed as a compliment as much as anything because Anderson had already secured a shock victory over the legendary Novak Djokovic at that point of his development - though it was only last year that he pieced together the best performance of his career by reaching the final of the US Open before losing to revitalised legend Rafael Nadal

With his pounding serve demoralising many an opponent, Anderson's record of only securing three ATP titles - in the lower 250-point category at that - might be looked at as something of an under achievement.

But in addition to his present world ranking of 11th - due to slip to 12th next week in the wake of Jean-Martin del Potro's successes in the current New Zealand Open - Anderson secured an elite top 10 world ranking for a week two years ago.

The burgeoning Edmund has yet to annex an ATP title, but his form over the past 12 months, in which he has regularly troubled the best players in the world, suggests there is little difference in the level of his game with that of Anderson, with experience of the big-time only favouring Anderson.

This fact is perhaps best reflected by the players’ respective tournament earnings, with Anderson having accumulated more than an awesome R135 million and Edmund an amount in the region of R35 million.

But expect little difference between the two Johannesburg-born antagonists when they cross swords in Melbourne for a second time as South Africa's and England's only representatives in the men's singles. 

And imagine if South Africa could have fielded both in a Davis Cup squad, with Edmund, of course, now representing England and Anderson, despite repeated recent suggestions, still to end a six-year, self-imposed exile from what is termed "The World Cup" of tennis.

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