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