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In a sport which transcends boundaries and barriers. In a sport where players are loved for their style of play and passion, not for where they have come from; Davis Cup offers a different reason to love the game even more. Davis Cup brings about a feeling of collective support for a player by the entire nation. It is like the World Cup of tennis. It is nation Vs nation. It is playing for the pride of the country. It is a team tournament.
As the Davis Cup finals approach us, we can feel the intensity building up. Players are starting to feel that this could be the year to get their country’s name written forever in the history books.
It is Great Britain Vs Belgium in the finals. At the start of the year, nobody could have guessed that these two teams will be in the finals. Britain finds itself in the finals for the first time in 37 years and for Belgium, the number is even more daunting – 111 years. That is the beauty of the Davis Cup. It is not about big names but about big teams and big hearts. If you want to win with all your heart and soul, you can do it.
This is going to be a rematch of the 1904 finals in which Britain thrashed Belgium with 5-0 victory. However, that is a long time back. In their most recent match in 2012, Belgium prevailed with a 4-1 victory over the home team. Their head-to-head record is 7-4 in the favour of nine time champions, Great Britain.
To see Britain being crowned as the Davis Cup champions, we have to go all the way back to 1936. Many generations have passed since then. Britain is hungry for another title and with Andy Murray’s quality in the team, Britain wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity of making history.
Belgium, on the other hand, is a surprise entry in the finals. They have no player in the top 10 men’s singles, with their best player being ranked number 15, David Goffin.
Nonetheless, in the finals they will have the home advantage. This is due to Davis Cup rotation policy in which teams play alternate home matches against one another.
Belgium has chosen Flanders Expo in Ghent as the location of their match. The stadium has the capacity to hold a crowd of about 13000 and 10% of the tickets will be sold to away team supporters. The match will take place on indoors clay court.
The Belgium team’s decision to play on indoors clay court is a wise decision. With Andy Murray, an inherently attacking mindset player, playing on clay court will slow down his shots and help the Belgium players to break his rhythm.
Having said that, Andy Murray has had a great clay court season this year. He won the BMW Open in Munich and then went on to win the Madrid Open, defeating Rafael Nadal in the finals in straight sets. He also reached the semi-finals of Roland Garros.
The choice of clay court has put Murray in a dilemma. The finals are from 27th to 29th November and the World Tour Finals finish on the 22nd day of November. The World Tour Finals, being a hard court event, will make it incredibly difficult for Andy to prepare his body for the clay court match within five days. The British number 1 had the following to say about it: “If you reach the final and play on Sunday you also need to take time off – you can’t just play five matches against the best players in the world and then not take any days off.”
Chris Kermode, executive president of the ATP, which governs men’s professional tennis, made it clear that Andy is expected to compete in the WTF. He stated: ”All players who qualify, unless injured, are required to compete in the event. Andy Murray has had a fantastic season and earned his place among the world’s top eight players to compete at the season finale. We are aware of the comments made after the Davis Cup tie in Glasgow, however our expectations are that, if fully fit, Andy would compete in this year’s tournament. Unless we hear otherwise via an official withdrawal, he is still entered to compete.”
Steve Darcis, the 31-year-old Belgian, played a decisive match of the tie against Argentina in the semi-finals. He had lost his first singles match and the doubles match. He found his tennis just at the right time to play some great shots in the fourth set tiebreak and propel his country into the finals. The atmosphere was electrifying and the euphoria unmatched.
He had the following to say after the match and after his team players stopped hugging him: ”Inside it was so hard to stay calm. I was so tight when I had the first two match points but I played an amazing tiebreak. We said before it would be a very long weekend and that was the case.”
For Great Britain, Andy Murray won both of his singles matches and his doubles match, pairing up with brother Jamie Murray, to seal a 3-2 victory for his country over Australia.
With so much on the line, the finals are expected to be nothing less than a battle. A battle of the nerves, a battle of the greats, a battle of who wants it more and a battle for a place in history. Who will be victorious, only time will tell. Let us wait for the finals as the Davis Cup finals are the most memorable ones …