GHENT, Belgium: Kyle Edmund will have a Davis Cup baptism of fire for Britain in Ghent on Friday (Saturday in Manila) when he leads the way in a final against Belgium that no-one expected at the start of the year.
The 20-year-old newcomer will be a big underdog against top Belgian player David Goffin, but the British team has a safety net in that their spearhead, world number two Andy Murray, then takes on lowly-ranked Ruben Bemelmans.
The likely outcome is a 1-1 tie at the end of the first day that will set the scene for a potentially decisive doubles on Saturday when Murray and older brother Jamie will take on the untested pairing of Steve Darcis and Kimmer Coppejans.
Both sides are set on making history in a tennis showpiece shrouded in doubt for a while over the Belgian-based terrorist attacks on Paris.
Britain’s last win in the Davis Cup came in 1936 when Fred Perry was the kingpin.
Belgium have only reached the final once and that came 111 years ago, in the early days of the competition, when they lost to what was then the British Isles team.
Murray, Britain’s outstanding player of the modern era, has already etched his name in the record books with his US Open Grand Slam win in 2012 and above all his 2013 Wimbledon triumph, which was also the first time that had happened for a British player since Perry won in 1936.
A Davis cup triumph would doubly seal his place in tennis history, having already won all eight rubbers he has played this year—six singles and two doubles.
Only two players before him— John McEnroe and Mats Wilander — have won all eight singles games since the Davis Cup World Group was started.
Murray though insists it is more than just a matter of him against the Belgians on a specially prepared indoors claycourt in the Flanders Expo centre as many are portraying the final to be.
Lot of pressure
“I think if you look at it that way, they’re actually putting a lot of pressure on their own players in the other matches, to be honest,” he said.
“I’m happy to take as much pressure on my shoulders as is needed. I’ve been in that position I think a lot of times in my career. I think I will be able to deal with it okay.”
Edmund, who won a second-tier Challenger title on clay in Buenos Aires earlier this month to grab the attention of team captain Leon Smith, said that he knew he would be wading into unchartered waters on Friday.
“This is definitely going to be the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of. Probably the biggest occasion,” the world number 100 said.
“The experience I’ve had close to that is probably in Paris in my (French Open) first round
when I played a French guy in front of a loud French crowd. That’s my experience in that regard.
“But, yeah, this will definitely be louder, a lot more people watching. It a new experience for me.”
Belgian coach Johan van Herck agreed that while Belgium would start as the underdogs due to the Murray factor, having home advantage, as the Belgians have had throughout their 2015 campaign, could be a real boost.
“I think it will be huge,” he said. “The two nations played all their matches at home this year. We’ll have this one at home also.
“We’re looking forward to getting the people involved. I think it will be important that the people get behind us when we’re winning, when we’re losing.”