GHENT, Belgium (AFP) – Top players Andy Murray and David Goffin both won their opening singles for Britain and Belgium in the Davis Cup final in Ghent on Friday (Nov 27), but in contrasting styles.
While Murray swept aside the challenge of Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-2, 7-5, Goffin had to claw his way back from the brink of defeat to edge British newcomer Kyle Edmund 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.
With the final tied at 1-1, the focus will now switch to Saturday’s potentially decisive doubles when Murray will link up once again with older brother Jamie, before taking on Goffin in the first of Sunday’s reverse singles.
If he wins both of these rubbers, Britain will have won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 when Fred Perry was the kingpin.
Two and a half years ago, Murray won Wimbledon as the first British player to do so since Perry in 1936. Belgium have never won the Davis Cup in its 115-year history.
Two breaks of serve were enough for the 28-year-old Murray to pocket the first set against Bemelmans, and he broke again at the start of the second to stamp his authority on the rubber.
The Belgian tried to unsettle Murray with a succession of drop shots and net charges, but the world number two was rock solid as he moved two sets clear.
The third set was closer with Bemelmans just trying to keep Murray out on court and frustrated as long as possible.
Murray was docked a point for swearing as the Belgian journeyman held and then broke to get to 4-2 to the crowd’s delight. But he gave that back right away and Murray levelled at 4-4.
The Scot had to save a set point two games later, enraging the Belgian fans with his bellowing celebration, but he then blasted his way through the two final games of the contest.
Edmund, ranked 100th in the world, 84 places lower than Goffin had his opponent on the ropes for the first two sets before running out of steam and allowing the Belgian to totally dominate the rest of the rubber.
Goffin rattled off the final 12 games of the match to take his singles record in the competition to 12-2. It was the first time in his career that he had won a match after losing the first two sets.
Edmund, meanwhile, came up short in his bid to become the first player to win a live rubber while making his debut in the competition in the final.
“It was not easy. Kyle had good intentions and was really heavy with every forehand,” Goffin said.
“It was hard for me to find my timing. I knew if Kyle was playing like this, bravo, but if there was a small chance I had to take it.
“He played really heavy and I was surprised. He played really aggressive with his forehand.” Edmund said that he had felt he had the game to beat Goffin, especially as the match was on clay – a surface he enjoys playing on.
But progressively, from the third set onwards, he said that he had started to feel fatigue and cramping in his legs. “I gave it my best. I was dominating the first two sets. He couldn’t get near me. He turned that, and that’s something I need to learn from,” he said.
“My legs just started to get tired. I could just feel them straining. My legs started cramping a bit. I just lost a bit of confidence in my movement.
“Pushing off every time I was serving and landing, it was just getting really tight. Obviously it affects your mind on the match.” Edmund will wait and see if he is required to play again in what would be a fifth and deciding rubber on Sunday.
British captain Leon Smith has the option of bringing in the more experienced James Ward in his place if the final is still alive by then.