Next in line for one of ten­nis’ hard­est jobs? Kyle Ed­mund

The Herald - Sport - - TENNIS - STE­WART FISHER

UN­FOR­TU­NATELY for Kyle Ed­mund, the por­tents aren’t great for Davis Cup fi­nal debu­tants. The 20-year-old from Bev­er­ley, York­shire, will to­day be­come only the sixth man in the open era to make his first ap­pear­ance in the world cup of team ten­nis in the tour­na­ment’s show­piece match. Leon Smith would be wise to avoid telling him what hap­pened to the other five when it comes to his pre-match pep talk.

The first was Jimmy Arias, the fourth man in a feud­ing USA team fea­tur­ing John McEn­roe and Jimmy Con­nors which crashed 4-1 to Swe­den in Gothen­burg. So frac­tious had things be­come by the end of this one that the week­end con­cluded with Arias, McEn­roe and Peter Flem­ing de­part­ing the last night gala din­ner shortly be­fore the pres­i­dent of the US ten­nis fed­er­a­tion took to his feet to speak. A code of con­duct was im­ple­mented and McEn­roe didn’t play for his coun­try for the next two years.

Richard Fromberg of Aus­tralia in 1990 at least won a rub­ber, but it was a dead fifth one against Michael Chang of the USA dur­ing a 3-2 de­feat. It was a day to forget for debu­tant Pete Sam­pras in 1991, when he lost rub­bers to both Guy Forget and Henri Le­conte, as a US team also fea­tur­ing An­dre Agassi crashed to the French in Lyon. Feli­ciano Lopez of Spain lost a dou­bles rub­ber with part­ner Alex Cor­retja to Wayne Arthurs and Todd Wood­bridge just 12 months af­ter the one which topped the lot.

That, surely, was the case of Paul-Henri Mathieu, of France, a late call up for the in­jured Ar­naud Cle­ment, who was two sets to the good and coast­ing in a de­ci­sive fifth rub­ber in front of his home Paris crowd against Mikhail Youzhny be­fore the roof fell in. It re­mains the only time in the history of the com­pe­ti­tion that a fi­nal has been squan­dered from two sets to love down in a fifth rub­ber.

While it would be wrong to ex­pect too much from Ed­mund against an op­po­nent in Gof­fin who has won 11 of his 13 sin­gles rub­bers to date, the 20-year-old is in great form, hav­ing beaten two Ar­gen­tinian for­mer top-50 play­ers on clay en route to win­ning a Chal­lenger event in Buenos Aires re­cently.

“Am I sur­prised?” said Bel­gian cap­tain Jo­han van Herck. “No. Any­way, it’s a Davis Cup Fi­nal. I think it’s all new for us, for both teams. We ex­pected Kyle to be the num­ber two player. We ex­pected Ward was go­ing to stay on the team, be­cause it was go­ing to be a huge risk to keep In­glot in. If some­thing seemed to hap­pen to the other play­ers, they wouldn’t have an­other sin­gles player. I think Kyle is a tal­ented player. We’re sure he’s ready to go to play, and will rise to the oc­ca­sion. So are we. We ex­pect a dif­fi­cult match.”

For all the talk of this tie boil­ing down to Andy Mur­ray against Bel­gium, Gof­fin was making re­spect­ful noises last night about the chal­lenge pre­sented by Ed­mund. For now, the world No.16 is plan­ning to sit out Satur­day’s dou­bles to keep him­self fresh for the chal­lenge of Mur­ray on Sun­day but that could be changed un­til an hour be­fore the tie.

“I don’t know yet,” said Gof­fin on the sub­ject. “I’m go­ing to play the first match on Fri­day and then we’re go­ing to see af­ter the first day. Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble. Phys­i­cally, I’m fit to play ev­ery day. But we’re go­ing to dis­cuss all to­gether. For the mo­ment, Steve [Dar­cis] and Kim­mer [Coppe­jans] are on the board and we’re go­ing to see all to­gether af­ter the first day.

“It’s just ex­cit­ing really,” said Ed­mund. “Ob­vi­ously, it’s my first match of the Davis Cup for my coun­try. At the same time it’s a team event and the team comes first. My job is to give my best and give my all. The ul­ti­mate goal is ob­vi­ously to put the point on the board for Great Bri­tain.

“This is go­ing to be the big­gest crowd I’ve played in front of,” the world No.100 added. “Prob­a­bly the big­gest oc­ca­sion. The ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had close to that is prob­a­bly in Paris in my first round when I played a French guy in front of a loud French crowd. That’s my ex­pe­ri­ence in that re­gard. But this will definitely be louder, a lot more peo­ple watch­ing. It’s a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me. It’s some­thing I’m go­ing to have to learn as I go through the match.”

Nerves, of course, can af­fect any­one. “There’s nerves there ob­vi­ously,” said Andy Mur­ray yes­ter­day. “That’s really a pos­i­tive thing. When I’m not ner­vous is nor­mally when I worry a lit­tle bit.”

Ob­vi­ously for my­self per­son­ally, it’s my first match of the Davis Cup for my coun­try. At the same time it’s a team event and the team comes first

Kyle Ed­mund poses for a photo with his op­po­nent for the first sin­gles

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