The competitors: Belgium and Great Britain. The location: Ghent, Belgium at the Flanders Expo on indoor clay. The stakes: A Davis Cup title
Tomorrow, the beginning of a historic Davis Cup Final begins. Belgium is looking to lift up its first Davis Cup title and is participating in their first final since 1904. Great Britain on the other hand is looking for their first Davis Cup title since 1936. Each team has a chance to rewrite the history books and put their current team into Davis Cup folklore with a victory. With that, here’s a preview to the final.
Great Britain’s Road To The Final
The Brits found themselves facing off against a tricky United States team. The Brits hosted the tie and chose to host it in Scotland, home of the Murrays, Andy and Jamie. After a slight push from Andy Murray against Donald Young, James Ward delivered the performance of a lifetime and forever embedded the image of him celebrating into Jim Courier’s head as the Brit came from two sets to love down against John Isner to win 15-13 in the deciding set to give the Brits a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Bryan Brothers nearly witnessed an Isner-esque collapse before holding against Dom Inglot and Jamie Murray before Jamie’s little brother Andy finished off the tie with a straight sets win over Isner.
France was the quarterfinal opponent for the Brits. Once again, the Brits were the host but chose to play this tie on grass, especially since Wimbledon just finished. Britain was 1-1 after two ties and that prompted them to throw at the Murray Brothers in the all important doubles rubber. The brothers closed out Nicolas Mahut and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four before Andy closed out Gilles Simon in the fourth rubber.
In the semifinals, the Brits played the role of hosts once more against Australia. The Aussies did not bring a troubled Nick Kyrgios which may have cost them in the end. Andy Murray played his best rubber by far, conceding only six games to Thanasi Kokkinakis, but a Bernard Tomic victory over Dan Evans once again forced Britain captain Leon Smith to throw the Murray Brothers into the doubles line of fire. The team of Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt were the hottest Davis Cup duo headed into Britain. The pair won all three points to send the Aussies to the semifinals over Kazakhstan, coming from 0-2 down. The Murrays put out that fire with a thrilling five set win which set up Andy’s win over Tomic to send Glasgow and the rest of Britain into raptures.
Belgium’s Road To The Final
The Belgians met the defending Davis Cup champions Switzerland to open up their World Group campaign. However, the Swiss had significant absentees in Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. The Belgians made life a bit more difficult than they liked. Star man David Goffin was nursing a back injury and was not named into the first two rubbers where they went 1-1, but the Swiss, who were down 2-1, managed to steal the fourth rubber via Henri Laaksonen’s win in five set over Steve Darcis. Goffin was thrown out for the fifth rubber, and he did no wrong as he sent the Belgians onto the next round.
Belgium met Canada in the quarterfinals and once again, the Belgian’s opponents were missing their two superstars, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil. It was easy pickings for the host, taking it 5-0.
In the semifinals, they met Argentina. Like the Belgian’s two previous opponents, this was an undermanned Argentine squad which saw Juan Martin del Potro and Juan Monaco hurt. Belgium found themselves down 1-2 after three rubbers with Goffin the only man picking up a win. Goffin defeated Diego Schwartzman, and Darcis closed out the Federico Delbonis in the reverse singles rubbers to send Belgium to their first final in well over a century.
Great Britain has gone with three singles players taking Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund, and James Ward. Their lone doubles player is Jamie Murray, meaning the Murray Brothers are set to play together for a third straight tie. Belgium’s Davis Cup captain, Johan Van Herck, continues with the same squad of Goffin, Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans, and Kimmer Coppejans.
Edmund is a Davis Cup rookie and will me making his debut tomorrow. He was brought to Glasgow in the opening round as a practice partner and was on the preliminary semifinal squad before captain Leon Smith decided to bring Dan Evans.
The first rubber sees Goffin faceoff against Edmund with Andy Murray meeting Ruben Bemelmans in the second rubber. The doubles rubber will be between the Murrays and Bemelmans and Darcis. With Darcis not going in either of the first two singles rubbers, it must mean they are ensuring he is ready for the doubles tie and a potential reverse singles tie.
The Belgians hold a distinct advantage on clay seeing it is their best surface. It is one of the worst, if not the worst surface for the Brits. It is Andy Murray’s worst surface by far, but this year, he found himself lifting up two titles on clay, Munich and Madrid Masters, and was a semifinalist at the French Open.
With all this taken into account, yours truly gives Great Britain a slight advantage. Having two of their three key players play last week at the ATP World Tour Finals on indoor hard courts meant less time for the Brits to get adjusted to the court. Also another component that goes into the Belgian’s favor is that Kyle Edmund is making his Davis Cup debut at the final. Nerves could potentially get to him, and he meets a very confident David Goffin in the first rubber; not what Edmund wanted to see in his first ever Davis Cup tie.
Despite the downsides for the Brits, they easily have the better players and the star power that Belgium doesn’t have. Although the Davis Cup is known for having the unknown players shine on the brightest stage, the star power will undoubtedly help the Brits come up big in the clutch points. Despite being at the World Tour Finals, the Murrays seemed to have their hearts and minds set on this weekend. The Murrays have also clinched eight of the nine rubbers for Britain so their participation in this final is pivotal.
History will be on the line tomorrow. No matter what way you spin it, we’re going to witness history this weekend. Whether which country makes that history is still yet to be determined.
Prediction: Great Britain clinches the Davis Cup in four rubbers.