Andy Murray once again played a defining role as Great Britain beat Belgium 3-1 in Ghent to land the Davis Cup, the World Cup of Tennis, for the first time since 1936. Murray swept aside David Goffin in straight sets on Sunday to secure a remarkable triumph for Great Britain, just five years on from when the team were a playoff defeat away from relegation to the bottom tier of the competition.
Leon Smith has been at the forefront of a remarkable renaissance since taking over as captain in 2010. Beginning with a 5-0 defeat of Turkey, Great Britain reeled off win after win under his leadership, rising back through the divisions and into the elite sixteen-nation World Group. A combination of incredibly thorough preparation on opponents, an ability to inspire the lesser members of the team to victories against much higher ranked players, and, most importantly, persuading Andy Murray to commit to the team, have proved an irresistible recipe, which culminated in this year’s thrilling run in the competition. The USA, France and Australia were all vanquished in raucous home matches to get Great Britain into the Final, where they faced an away tie, on the clay in Belgium.
Kyle Edmund was selected ahead of James Ward to play in Fridays opening singles rubber against Belgium’s best player David Goffin. Edmund, at just 20 years old, was making his debut for GB in the competition, and despite it being by far the most important match of his fledgling career, showed no sign of nerves in racing into a two set lead. Unfortunately from a British perspective, he was unable to keep the incredible start going, and eventually ran out of steam, reeled in by the wily Belgian 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. Murray then levelled the tie with a straight forward win over Ruben Bemelmans going into Saturday’s pivotal doubles.
Andy and older brother Jamie had already enjoyed two monumental doubles victories in earlier rounds of the competition, and knew the importance of coming out on top against Goffin and Darcis. They prevailed in four to put Great Britain in a commanding position in the tie, just a Murray victory over Goffin away from winning the Davis Cup. Murray has shown consistently over his career that he holds no truck with the ‘gallant British sporting loser’ stereotype, and ruthlessly ground down Goffin, no mug at 16 in the world, to triumph 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. He even finished with a rally worthy of Hollywood, chasing down a Goffin forehand that looked a sure-fire winner before sending a show-stopping backhand lob over the Belgian to confirm victory. As Murray was engulfed by his joyous teammates on the clay, he could add winning the Davis Cup to his remarkable list of accomplishments.
And what a list that is. To a career that has encapsulated an Olympic Gold in London, a US Open title, and most memorably, ending 77 years of hurt on that remarkable July day in 2013 at Wimbledon, one of Britain’s great champions can add the premier team event in tennis. A truly towering achievement that is as impressive as it was unexpected; Murray won all 11 matches he played in this year’s competition. While Murray was clearly the driving force, the whole team deserves massive credit. From James Ward’s epic upset of John Isner against the USA in the first round, to Jamie Murray’s unflinching doubles ability, to Leon Smith’s inspirational captaincy, it truly was a great team effort, and one that the whole nation can be incredibly proud of. The challenge for those running the game in this country now is harnessing the team’s success to encourage the nation to pick up a racket, to both inspire the next generation of elite players, and increase participation levels in general. Great Britain are the tennis World Champions. What a surreal sentence to write. Arise Sir Andy?