Mur­ray the key as Bri­tain, Bel­gium con­test Davis fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

GHENT: Bel­gium host Bri­tain in the Davis Cup fi­nal in Ghent this week­end in a matchup no-one ex­pected and an at­mos­phere no-one wants. The pic­turesque Flan­ders city is just 55 kilo­me­tres (35 miles) from Brus­sels, still reel­ing from the fall­out of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Paris that killed 130 peo­ple and in­jured hun­dreds more.

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 his­to­ry­mak­ing. Bri­tain are seek­ing their 10th Davis Cup win in all, but first since 1936 when Fred Perry ruled the roost. Bel­gium’s only previous ap­pear­ance in the fi­nal came 111 years ago when they lost to what was then the Bri­tish Isles.

The cen­tral fig­ure in the Fri­day to Sun­day clash at the 13,000-ca­pac­ity Flan­ders Expo is un­doubt­edly Bri­tish num­ber one Andy Mur­ray.

Ranked sec­ond in the world, he has been the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind his coun­try reach­ing the Davis Cup fi­nal for the first time since 1978, win­ning all eight rub­bers he has played-six sin­gles and two dou­bles against heavy­weights United States, France and Aus­tralia.

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.

Mur­ray, who will fin­ish the year ranked sec­ond in the world be­hind No­vak Djokovic, is on a crash course to get him­self adapted to play­ing on in­door clay af­ter a week spent on a hard­court in Lon­don for the World Tour Fi­nals.

But the 28-year-old Scot, who is likely to team up again with brother Jamie in what could be a key dou­bles rub­ber on Satur­day, said he was con­fi­dent he would be up to scratch by Fri­day.

“To win the big­gest team com­pe­ti­tion in ten­nis, hav­ing beaten the other three Grand Slam na­tions, I think it would be a huge vic­tory for ev­ery­one in the team,” he said.

“It would be well-de­served, as well. It’s taken a lot of time and hard work from many of the play­ers, many of the staff, coaches, phys­ios, ev­ery­one. It’s taken like five years.

“I know when you win like a slam or a big com­pe­ti­tion, it’s years, ob­vi­ously, in the works. But this is a bit dif­fer­ent. “The last five years it’s been a pro­gres­sion from a pretty low place in world ten­nis to play­ing for the big­gest team com­pe­ti­tion. It would be big for ev­ery­one in­volved, for sure.”

Lucky Bel­gium

Bel­gium’s as­ton­ish­ing run into the fi­nal had much to do with good for­tune and three home ties. In the first round they came up against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Switzer­land, but nei­ther Roger Fed­erer, nor Stanis­las Wawrinka elected to play.

In the next round, Canada’s top two play­ers were both miss­ing through in­jury and they then edged a medi­ocre Ar­gentina side 3-2 in the semis. Home hopes rest with their top player David Gof­fin and num­ber two Steve Dar­cis both tak­ing points off the sec­ond Bri­tish player, pos­si­bly 20-year-old debu­tant Kyle Ed­mund, and also win­ning the dou­bles.

Ranked 16th in the world, Gof­fin re­cently felt the full force of the Mur­ray fire­power, win­ning just one game as he lost in straight sets in un­der an hour at the Paris Masters.

It was, he said, a chas­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but one which he said he has fully put out of his mind.

“I think the day I played Andy in (Paris) Bercy, it was just a day off for me. I didn’t play re­ally well. But Andy was re­ally ag­gres­sive. He played an un­be­liev­able match there,” he said.

“The con­di­tions here, it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent match, another sur­face. I just have to for­get this match and to think about the matches of this week­end.”

GENT: Great Bri­tain’s Andy Mur­ray prac­tices dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion two days ahead of the Davis Cup World Group ten­nis fi­nal be­tween Bel­gium and Great Bri­tain, yes­ter­day, at Flan­ders Expo in Gent.

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