‘In Ghent, ev­ery­thing seems fine . . .’ Team GB com­fort­able but cau­tious

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - ELEANOR CROOKS

GREAT Bri­tain have put wor­ries over se­cu­rity to one side as they pre­pare for the Davis Cup fi­nal – but Andy Mur­ray un­der­stands the anx­i­ety among some fans.

The Bri­tish team had been due to fly to Brussels on Sun­day be­fore trav­el­ling on to Ghent, where the tie will be held start­ing on Fri­day at the 13,000-ca­pac­ity Flan­ders Expo.

But the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal, which was put on the high­est level of terror alert at the week­end, meant they de­layed their jour­ney by a day and char­tered a pri­vate jet to Flan­ders Air­port.

With trans­port and schools shut in Brussels and some sport­ing events can­celled, there seemed a real dan­ger the fi­nal – Bri­tain’s first since 1978 – would not go ahead.

But that now seems un­likely, leav­ing the more than 1000 fans set to travel from Bri­tain to de­cide whether they are pre­pared to make the jour­ney.

Mur­ray said: “I think we just lis­tened to all of the right peo­ple. They have a fan­tas­tic se­cu­rity team here. Ev­ery­one, I think, is very com­fort­able in the team. It was ob­vi­ously a bit con­cern­ing a few days ago. I think once we got here and got into the ho­tel, came to the venue and saw what it was like here, I think that made ev­ery­one a lot more com­fort­able.

“I think it’s not for me to give peo­ple ad­vice on se­cu­rity. But ob­vi­ously it’s a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion in Brussels than it is here. I know a lot of fans were stay­ing there and plan­ning on trav­el­ing through there. Ob­vi­ously lis­ten to the right peo­ple, if you’re do­ing that.

“But here in Ghent, ev­ery­thing seems fine. It’s very quiet. I think it’s a really nice city. I hope as many fans can travel over as pos­si­ble to give us the best sup­port. Ob­vi­ously I understand if peo­ple make an­other de­ci­sion be­cause of what’s been hap­pen­ing in Brussels.”

Cap­tain Leon Smith named a five-man squad last week, which he must re­duce by one ahead of the draw on Thurs­day. He had hoped to make an early de­ci­sion on his sec­ond sin­gles player be­tween James Ward and Kyle Ed­mund but the change in their travel plans means he is still yet to make up his mind.

He said: “We wanted to get here and get a feel for the venue, feel for the courts. That’s why I didn’t speak to the guys di­rectly about it just yet. I’m go­ing to wait and see over the next day or two, then speak to them ob­vi­ously in ad­vance of that. The most im­por­tant thing is that we’re here now. Our main fo­cus, as it should be, is now making sure all the play­ers are ready to do their very, very best at the week­end.”

Whether Smith hands a de­but to 20-year-old Ed­mund or goes with the ex­pe­ri­ence of Ward, Bri­tain’s hopes rest largely on the shoul­ders of Mur­ray.

He is look­ing to be­come only the third player ever af­ter John McEn­roe and Mats Wi­lan­der to win all eight sin­gles rub­bers in a year and is also vir­tu­ally cer­tain to team up with brother Jamie for the dou­bles rub­ber.

Like with Mur­ray’s tri­umphs at the US Open and Wim­ble­don, should he help Bri­tain to vic­tory he would be end­ing a drought go­ing back to 1936 and the days of Fred Perry.

Mur­ray de­clared him­self happy with the in­door clay court, al­though con­di­tions have so far been very cold in the arena, which will not be the case on Fri­day.

The Scot said: “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

“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 five years.

“I know when you win a slam or a big com­pe­ti­tion, it’s years 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.”

READY: Andy Mur­ray takes a break dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion at Flan­ders Expo Cen­tre, Ghent

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