IT isn’t exactly Dunblane. But once thought to be a sleepy backwater, Hull has emerged as an equally unlikely hotbed of tennis talent. With Andy Murray out of the equation, this port city on the Humber estuary has emerged as a stopping-off point for two of the likely lads fronting up the British challenge in the men’s singles. Is there something in the water?

Kyle Edmund, the world No.31, is the man who leads the challenge, his tennis career catching fire in East Yorkshire after he moved from his native Johannesburg at an early age. Seeded No.30, he gets his campaign under way third on Centre Court against Jaume Munar of Spain today.

Then there is Paul Jubb, the 19-year-old who lost both parents at a young age but didn’t let the tragedy stop him making it all the way from a council estate in the city to being named NCAA champion whilst at the University of South Carolina.


Andy Murray admits it will be difficult if he faces brother at Wimbledon

Granted a wild card into this event, Jubb’s big moment comes tomorrow against Joao Sousa of Portugal.

“I don’t really know what it is,” said Edmund. “I mean, maybe it’s coincidence, but I certainly know that when I was young, we had a really good set-up when Richard Plews was there. He had basically his own tennis program with lots of kids like myself there.

“One of my mates used to coach Jubbie too. It’s probably just sort of good coaching in terms of managing or looking after players well but he’s done amazingly to be out there on his own and improving, and I think that’s what happened to me as well.”

This is the second year in a row Edmund has fronted up the home challenge in the absence of Murray, even having the temerity to take the first set from Novak Djokovic in the third round before losing in four sets 12 months ago.


Serena Williams open to team-up with Andy Murray for Wimbledon mixed

“It was probably the best match I’ve ever played at Wimbledon, to be honest, in terms of level,” said the former Australian Open semi-finalist. “I had a good grass-court season last year. That was obviously the end of it.

“I had a really good first set. I probably just dropped slightly in terms of consistency in the second and fourth but I ended up playing the winner, so he was playing very well. It’s a really good one to remember, it’s always in the bank for next time you go in, that you have some memories there.”

With just Edmund and Heather Watson in action today, Jubb is one of eight Brits in action tomorrow. Reformed Evans – the world No.65 a champion in back-to-back weeks at Surbiton and Nottingham – takes on Federico Delbonis of Argentina, wild card Jay Clarke takes on qualifier Noah Rubin of the United States and Cam Norrie faces Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan - a man who he so nearly met on Davis Cup duty in Glasgow. Then there is James Ward, a great friend of Andy Murray’s who has also had to battle back from career threatening injuries, who takes on No.18 seed Nikoloz Basilaishvili.


Rafa Nadal still caught up in seeding talk as big three state their cases for Wimbledon

“You could see he [Murray] was always grabbing it, always conscious of it,” said Ward, a key part of Britain’s winning 2015 Davis Cup team. “I’m not really going to go down and grab my knee after every point because it would look a bit strange, but I couldn’t sit in a car for more than 10 minutes. I had to put my leg straight down the side of a chair. Getting my hair cut at the barber’s, I used to have my foot up on the counter. People would say: ‘What’s this guy doing?’ but I was in so much pain I just needed to keep the leg straight. Travelling on a plane for 10 hours to Asia, it was impossible. You could pay for Business but then you’ve got no money left to do that. So it’s always Catch-22 but luckily it’s been good now and I don’t have those day-to-day issues. I can go and get my hair cut in peace!”

These days, even the £45,000 for a first-round loser at Wimbledon is a godsend to the likes of Ward. “It’s massive, of course – but I also think it’s deserved,” he said. “You look at every other sport. No one talks about the right-back of Crystal Palace earning 60 grand a week. Actually no one knows who he is. Also in those other sports they don’t have expenses. The team pay for everything. They cover everything for them. In tennis I’ve got to pay my coach, I’ve got to pay my travel, I’ve got to pay to live. Living in London, as well know, is not cheap. It adds up.”