Davis Cup finalists not distracted by terror alert

Britain will count on Andy Murray winning both his singles ties against Belgium to clinch their 10th Davis Cup win.
Britain will count on Andy Murray winning both his singles ties against Belgium to clinch their 10th Davis Cup win.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GHENT • Belgium host Britain in the Davis Cup final in Ghent this weekend in a match-up that no one expected and an atmosphere which no one wants.

The picturesque city is just 55km from Brussels, still reeling from the fallout of terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

The Belgian government has declared the highest level of terror alert in the capital city as the hunt for those responsible for the Paris atrocities continues.

Both teams, though, are in Ghent and saying that, despite all the fears and anxiety, the focus is fully on tennis and making history.

Britain are seeking their 10th Davis Cup win in all, but first since 1936 when Fred Perry ruled the roost. They last reached the final in 1978 but lost to the United States.

Belgium's only previous appearance in the final came 111 years ago when they lost to what were then the British Isles.

The central figure at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo is undoubtedly world No. 2 Andy Murray. The Briton has won all eight rubbers he has played - six singles and two doubles - against heavyweights France, Australia and the US.

Should he win both his singles - as he is heavily favoured to do - he would be just the third player - after John McEnroe and Mats Wilander - to win all eight Davis Cup singles matches in the same year.

Said Murray, who is likely to team up again with brother Jamie in what could be a key doubles rubber on Saturday: "To win the biggest team competition in tennis, having beaten the other three Grand Slam nations, would be a huge victory for everyone in the team. The last five years, it's been a progression from a pretty low place in world tennis to playing for the biggest team competition."

Belgium's astonishing run into the final had much to do with good fortune - their opponents Switzerland, Canada and Argentina were missing key players - and three home ties.

Home hopes rest with their top player David Goffin and No. 2 Steve Darcis both taking points off the second British singles player, possibly 20-year-old debutant Kyle Edmund, and also winning the doubles on clay. World No. 16 Goffin recently felt the full force of the Murray fire-power, winning just one game as he lost in straight sets in under an hour at the Paris Masters.

It was a chastening experience on the indoor hard courts but one which the 24-year-old said he has fully put out of his mind.

"It was just an off day for me. But Andy was really aggressive. He played an unbelievable match there," he noted.

"The conditions here, it's a completely different match, another surface."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Davis Cup finalists not distracted by terror alert'. Print Edition | Subscribe