2015 Davis Cup: Preview - Britain and Belgium face off for the title
Photo: Jonny Walsh

Belgium will be looking to rewrite history on home soil in the Davis Cup final this month, searching for their first ever title victory in the competition.

They come up against a nation, however, who defeated them in their only ever final appearance all the way back in 1904, Great Britain, who were known as the British Isles all those 111 years ago.

The visitors, on the other hand, are pursuing their first title since 1936 and their 10th in total, appearing in their first final for 37 years and only their third since Fred Perry led the nation to success all those years ago at Wimbledon.

Road to the final

Belgium have been more than impressive on their route to the final, with their last 16 victory over Switzerland sending out a real message of intent from the off - the hosts coming out as 3-2 winners in Liège.

Their quarter-final victory over Canada proved that this was not just a one-off either, a 5-0 win on clay more than emphatic, whilst they again thrived on home soil in the semis as they defeated Argentina 3-2.

It's been a tremendous team effort from the nation, with each and every man selected recording a victory on the way to the final, with 16th ranked singles player David Goffin helping to drive his team this far.

Belgium again have the advantage of playing in front of their own fans for the final, having not left the country in the competition this year, but face their toughest test yet in a Great Britain team led by world singles number two, Andy Murray.

The Scot has been the face of the operation this year, leading Britain to their first Davis Cup final since 1978, but it has not been without the help of a talented team.

James Ward's incredible five set victory over John Isner was crucial in the last 16 as Britain beat the USA 3-2 in Glasgow, whilst the help of Jamie Murray has also been important, the doubles player linking up with his brother to defeat Nicolas Mahout and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the quarters.

The semi-finals were closely fought as Britain faced an Australia side full of quality, despite the absence of the controversial but undoubtedly talented Nick Kyrgios.

The gamble to bring the unpredictable Dan Evans almost cost Britain in the end, but the Murrays ensured it did not matter, Andy beating Thanasi Kokkinakis and Bernard Tomic whilst teaming up with Jamie to defeat Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt to help their nation to a 3-2 win, with Evans losing to both Tomic and Kokkinakis.

Such gambles will not be taken in Ghent this weekend though, with the nation bidding for their first Davis Cup title for 79 years.

Previous meetings

The two nations have met 11 times before in the Davis Cup, albeit most of these meetings are not recent, with only one occurring this century.

Ten of their encounters came in 1963 and before, with Britain winning seven of the meetings - four of these on clay and three on grass.

However, their most recent clash came back in 2012 and it was Belgium who emerged victorious that time on hard court in Glasgow.

Belgium maintain three of that quartet who ran out winners three years ago, whilst only Evans was in Britain's team back then, and he has not been selected this time round after his performances in the semi-finals.

British fans will be confident of winning though after their star man defeated Belgium's earlier this month, Andy Murray wiping the floor with Goffin at the Paris Masters, defeating him 6-1 6-0 on his road to the final - where he was eventually thwarted only by world number one Novak Djokovic.

Surface

The hosts for the tie, Belgium have chosen clay as the surface for this year's final in an attempt to limit the threat possessed by Andy Murray, with it his weakest surface by some distance.

Speaking to the Daily Mail about the decision, Goffin confirmed that this was the reasoning behind the choice, saying "for Britain it's tough to play on clay," whereas it's easy for Belgium because they "love" the surface as they have been playing on it "every summer" since he was "five years old."

The world number 16 continued, saying that British players "prefer grass courts, hard courts, fast courts," so the slow pace offered by clay was the reason why they "chose" it.

Still, Murray had a fantastic clay court season this year, defeating the king of the surface, Rafael Nadal, to claim the Madrid Open title, having emerged victorious on the surface in Munich the week prior too.

He, incidentally, pulled out of the Italian Open in Rome with fatigue after reaching the third round where he was to play Goffin, but the decision proved a smart one in hindsight when he reached the semi-finals of the French Open at the beginning of June - only to be stopped by eventual runner-up Djokovic.

Goffin said that Belgium acknowledged the Scotsman's "unbelievable" clay court season this year, but believes it will still be "tough" for Britain to adapt to the surface regardless, so they went ahead with the decision to select it.

Another reason why clay may be difficult for Murray is because, just last week, he competed in the World Tour Finals in London - on hard court.

Speaking to ESPN in the build-up to a hectic end to his 2015 season, the world number two admitted that the situation was "not ideal" as he attempted to "juggle the two" competitions by training on both clay and hard court.

With the Davis Cup such a rare opportunity however, one would expect Murray to have leaned towards his clay preparation a little more, with his presence at the World Tour Finals almost a given every year now.

His elimination in the group stages of the finals was a big plus for his nation too, giving him more time to prepare for this weekend.

Team selection

Unsurprising, following his two losses in two matches against Australia, Evans has not made the cut for this weekend's squad, with Kyle Edmund coming in instead.

Dominic Inglot also earns a recall, whilst the Murray brothers look to lead the Brits to a huge victory as Ward misses out.

Belgium, on the other hand, stick with the familiar trio of Goffin, Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans, whilst Kimmer Coppejans completes the line-up, despite not having played a match in the semi-finals.

Though it's all about the team in this competition, both nations will be looking to their more experienced and illustrious names to help drive them to the title this weekend and inspire them to victory.

Stay tuned to VAVEL over the next few days for all of our build up to the huge Davis Cup final as GB take on Belgium.  We'll be bringing you more reviews of all the action, more previews and more indepth discussion.   

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