Murray savours most emotional triumph as Britain win Davis Cup
World No .2 produces imperious performance to beat David Goffin and clinch trophy for GB for first time since 1936
AN EMOTIONAL Andy Murray clinched Great Britain’s first Davis Cup triumph for 79 years then said the experience meant more to him than his 2013 Wimbledon victory.
The world No. 2 joked that captain Leon Smith and every member of a victorious extended British team comprising his brother Jamie, Kyle Edmund, James Ward, Dan Evans and Dom Inglot deserved a knighthood after his 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory against Belgium’s top player David Goffin gave Britain an unassailable 3-1 lead in their final at the Flanders Expo Centre in Ghent.
It topped a remarkable journey from near relegation to the bottom tier of this competition under Smith, with Murray personally responsible for 11 of the points on Britain’s glory run, three of them in the company of his older brother Jamie.
He is the first player since Pete Sampras 20 years ago to secure all three live points which decided a final. He marked the moment in bravura fashion with a trademark backhand lob on match point, before crumpling to the clay. Mobbed by his team-mates, he broke off to commiserate with the defeated hosts.
“I’ve been pretty upset having lost matches before,” he said. “But I’d say that’s probably the most emotional I’ve been after a win. It’s incredible that we managed to win this competition. I didn’t know that would ever be possible.”
While a job lot of knighthoods seems a lot to ask, sportsmen like Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins have all received this royal honour and Sir Andy does have a ring to it. “Look, I think everyone deserves one [a knighthood],” said the 28-year-old.
“For all of the team it’s obviously great to have a Davis Cup next to our name. We’ll all remember this year for the rest of our lives, regardless of what happens in the rest of any of our careers. Nothing may ever top this now.”
While at pains to stress that this was a team effort, Smith said that the achievements of the World No 2 were up there with any in the history of British sport. “It has to be one of the best achievements of all time,” said Smith.
“I mean, it’s incredible for all of us to watch how he’s managed to win that many rubbers, that many wins, especially when you look back at the tie in France and also the Australia match, when he obviously had a lot of fatigue, and managed to find a way through.”
While Murray has already committed to playing in the 2016 first round against Japan, Smith remained tight-lipped about his future last night.
Herald Sport revealed back in July that there are hopes of persuading him to go on secondment north of the border to head up the Scottish coaching operation. “I think it’s really important to enjoy this moment right now,” said Smith. “It is a very, very special moment for all of us. We’ll just soak up the next couple of days as a team together, really enjoy it, then we’ll see what happens.”
Jamie Murray, relegated to a supporting role after his heroics of Saturday, said the moment was the biggest of his career, and that celebrations would include a slap-up meal in London.
“It’s huge for me,” said Jamie. “By far the biggest achievement in my career. I’ve had an amazing season. This is an unbelievable way to cap it off. As for celebrations, I don’t know. I think we’re going to Nobu tomorrow night. That’s all I know.”
TO think the week began with Andy Murray’s commitment to British tennis being openly questioned. With honourable mentions to certain other family members, Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, the remainder of this team, and the best performers in the women’s and wheelchair versions of the sport, further confirmation arrived yesterday that to all intents and purposes this 28-year-old from Dunblane is British tennis. No wonder some by the end of the week were calling for him to be knighted in light of his contribution towards it.
The Davis Cup is a team event. And this historic triumph belongs to everyone who contributed towards it. But it was Andy Murray against the world yesterday and that has always been this extraordinary young man’s favourite match-up.
At times during the afternoon he would have to endure ill-mannered cat calls and jeering from a partisan home crowd, an umpire in Pascal Maria whose remedy for this was issuing him with a time violation and even a line judge who seemed determined to cramp his style on the baseline. Not to mention an opponent in David Goffin on his favoured surface who played above himself over just shy of three hours at the Flanders Expo Centre in Ghent.
By rights he should also have been experiencing a little fatigue. Quite apart from being his third match in a 48-hour period, this was his 98th match all told of a stellar, if gruelling, season. He had even broken the habit of a lifetime and risked his usually meticulous preparation by watching a live stream of Tyson Fury’s surprise victory against Wladimir Klitschko the night before. But this was a heavyweight performance from Murray. Goffin hardly laid a glove on him
Murray breaks records with such frequency that he may be singlehandedly keeping the history book industry in business. Having ended the 77-year wait for a home male winner of the Wimbledon singles title back in 2013, this 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory means that Britain can call themselves the World Champions of tennis after a 79-year wait. Fred Perry, the man whose sportswear he used to advertise, must wonder what item of his clothing he will steal next.
When it arrived, the crowning moment was almost worth the wait. The money shot, Murray’s favourite backhand lob, arrived at the end of a tense 20-plus shot rally to give Britain an unassailable 3-1 lead. The world No.2 tumbled to the clay in disbelief, his joyful team-mates piling on in celebration. But it was typical of the 28-year-old that even in his moment of glory, he didn’t forget his manners. Instead, he pulled himself away to commiserate with Belgium captain Johan van Herck and his vanquished opponent. The waterworks followed, first from a tearful Murray – only the third man in history alongside John McEnroe and Mats Wilander to win all eight singles rubbers in a year – then when the entire Great Britain squad doused captain Leon Smith in celebration.
The Flanders Expo Centre, a large SECC-style construction on the outskirts of town, has been a fitting venue for this tie. The partisan home crowd had tried everything in their power to put Murray off on Friday and yesterday it seemed a memo had got round that there was no point in playing nice. Twice in the opening game, Murray had been forced to halt his service motion due to squeals and shouts from the audience.
Monsieur Maria must already have been considering a reprimand to the Belgians under the partisan rule but Murray retained his focus and served it out to 30. When Goffin got his first service game on the board, it equalled his total tally on the players’ previous meeting, a 6-1, 6-0 spanking administered by the Scot on the hard courts of Paris earlier this month.
In fact, the Belgian had never taken a set from the Scot on either of their previous meetings and the closest he would ever come to a lead was a break point on the Murray serve at 2-2 in that first set. On second serve, amid a cacophony from the crowd, the Scot cannily made them wait before producing a deep second serve which Goffin couldn’t tame.
Cue fist bumps with captain Leon Smith at the change of ends before the travelling support took a page from the Belgians’ playbook. ‘What time is it? Break time,’ one group chanted as Goffin prepared to serve. Perhaps they knew something we didn’t. Murray brutalised a Goffin second serve on break point for a 4-2 lead.
The world No.16 wriggled off the hook just long enough to make his opponent serve for the set, but found Murray in unflappable form. The set was his, 6-3.
With a perfect record on the 61 times this year when he has won the opening set, Goffin must have feared the worst. While he managed to put the Murray serve under duress at times, the Scot was given a harsh time violation early in the second set and had a break point to save, the pressure was mainly the other way. Soon the world No.2 was sailing through his service games and the pressure on the plucky little Belgian told. A bad error at the net as he served at 5-5 started to eat away at his confidence and soon the Scot was serving for the set.
The scoring system in tennis always leaves room for surprise momentum swings and one arrived courtesy of Murray’s only lapse of the match. He soon snapped out of it. In an instant, he had parity in the set at 2-2. Serving his way consistently out of trouble, he capitalised on the first of three break points on the Goffin serve for a 4-3 lead and that was pretty much that.
British tennis, care of Dunblane, Scotland, had just become world champions.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Andy Murray roars with delight as he is hoisted into the air by his Davis Cup teammates after sealing the trophy with a straight sets win over Belgium’s David Goffin
JUBILATION: Andy Murray is warmly congratulated by captain Leon Smith and the rest of the Davis Cup team