Promising Briton Kyle Edmund was one of the busiest players on the Tour in 2017, playing 27 tournaments and scoring 30 wins from 60 matches. Despite a couple of semi-final results it wasn't enough to make a notable progress through the ATP rankings and he was eager to change that in 2018, opening the season with a quarter-final in Brisbane and the semi-final at the Australian Open that propelled him into the Top 30 for the first time. Edmund couldn't keep that pace for too long, though, missing all the action in February and making a slow return at Indian Wells and Miami, failing to win a match at the opening Masters 1000 events of the season.
He set his eyes on clay and it turned out to be an immediate success, reaching his first ATP final in Marrakech after a 6-3 6-4 win over Richard Gasquet in an hour and 12 minutes. It was a busy Saturday in Morocco, with rain washing away the Friday's action, and Kyle notched two commanding wins over Malek Jaziri and Richard Gasquet to stay on a title course, a much-needed result for him after a poor two and a half months he has had.
Just like Edmund, Gasquet has been on a downfall after losing the final in Montpellier, heading to Marrakech with four straight defeats and looking to improve his form before the big clay events in the following weeks. Knowing all this, it was a very important match for both players but Kyle was the one who got the most from it, losing 12 points in 10 service games and breaking the Frenchman four times to earn the second win in three meetings (they played twice in 2016) and punch the final ticket.
Gasquet struggled to find the first serve and that made his life miserable, dropping almost 50% of the points and hitting more errors than Edmund, including six double faults. Kyle tamed his shots nicely, dominating with his serve and forehand to hit 36 winners and just 18 errors, while Gasquet stood on a negative 28-30 ratio.
As many times before, the number of aces (11-3 for Edmund) could get us on the wrong trail and it is far more important to know that Kyle had just three service winners more than his opponent. On the other hand, he made the difference with the first groundstroke after the initial shot, dominating in the short points and making a lot of damage with his forehand that produced 11 winners and only eight errors.
Richard was unable to impose his shots and to move Edmund out from his comfort zone and force him to play more balls from the backhand wing. In addition, the Briton was the more determined player on the court, playing in the aggressive mode and keeping the points on his racquet at any cost.
He had one loose service game in each set but that didn't cost him much, scoring two breaks in both of them to remain in front, which gave him the confidence to go for shots and accumulate the pressure on the other side of the net.
Besides those two games when he got broken, Edmund dropped just four points in total in the remaining eight games and Gasquet couldn't stay in touch and prolong the match for at least few more games. It was 20-17 for Kyle in service winners and 16-11 in the direct points from the field, creating a nice buffer before we examine the errors count.
Richard lost the ground in set number two, spraying 19 unforced errors in total while Kyle stayed on 13, controlling his backhand in the more efficient way than Gasquet did with his forehand. They had five forced errors each and the Frenchman added six double faults to his tally, five in the games when he was broken! Edmund was 46-34 ahead in the shortest points up to four strokes, overpowering his rival with an effective first groundstroke that gave him the crucial advantage.
They were neck and neck in the mid-range points with five to eight strokes (12-10 for Edmund) and the Briton had the upper hand in the longer points as well, constructing them nicely to grab eight out of 10 and earn his win fair and square.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: