GHENT, Belgium: Top players Andy Murray and David Goffin both won their opening singles for Britain and Belgium in the Davis Cup final in Ghent on Friday (Saturday in Manila), but in contrasting styles.
While Murray swept aside the challenge of Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-2, 7-5, Goffin had to claw his way back from the brink of defeat to edge British newcomer Kyle Edmund 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.
With the final tied at 1-1, the focus will now switch to Saturday’s potentially decisive doubles when Murray will link up once again with older brother Jamie, before taking on Goffin in the first of Sunday’s reverse singles.
If he wins both of these rubbers, Britain will have won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 when Fred Perry was the kingpin. Two and a half years ago, Murray won Wimbledon as the first British player to do so since Perry in 1936.
Belgium have never won the Davis Cup in its 115-year history.
Two breaks of serve were enough for the 28-year-old Murray to pocket the first set against Bemelmans, and he broke again at the start of the second to stamp his authority on the rubber.
The third set proved to be a tougher challenge for Murray as a nothing-to-lose Bemelmans tried to unsettle the Scot with a series of drop shots and net charges.
It worked to some extent with Murray being docked a point for swearing and then enraging the Belgian fans with his bellowing celebration as he saved a set point at 4-5.
But he blasted through the next two games to end the contest in style.
“The third set was tricky after missing a few chances early on and he started going for his biggest shots when the new balls came out,” he said.
“The crowd were getting wound up and you have to use that to your advantage. It was a good atmosphere and it is going to be tough over the next couple of days.”
Edmund, ranked 100th in the world, 84 places lower than Goffin had his opponent on the ropes for the first two sets before running out of steam and allowing the Belgian to totally dominate the rest of the rubber.
Goffin rattled off the final 12 games of the match to take his singles record in the competition to 12-2. It was the first time in his career that he had won a match after losing the first two sets.