November 28, 2015
What a match, what an atmosphere. This is why we love tennis. And this is why Great Britain will probably win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936 on Sunday.
The relief and brotherly love between the victors, the fierce pride of the Belgian underdogs who made such a match of it. This action-packed afternoon had it all. And a truly magnificent occasion leaves GB just one match from Davis Cup glory.
If Andy Murray beats David Goffin on Sunday lunchtime, he will add the Davis Cup to his Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open titles. Not exactly a career Slam, but an incredible collection all the same.
Jamie Murray, who was targeted by the Belgian pair, admitted after this fraught doubles contest, ‘It was a crazy match with some unbelievable points.’
Andy revealed, ‘We just needed to find a way to win some more points on Jamie’s return side and when we got more aggressive and mixed it up, he won some more points, and it was a great tactical switch-up.
‘It’ll be a difficult match for me on Sunday, David Goffin is a world-class player but we’ve got two chances tomorrow.’
GB’s Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith said: ‘There was a lot of stress and tension, it was a bit of a dogfight out there but overall it was an excellent performance. But we’ve seen over the last few days what a tough player David Goffin is.’
The doubles win by 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 was by no means as easy as it might sound. The Brit brothers could easily have been two sets down and staring shock defeat in the face, such was the chemistry between David Goffin and Steve Darcis at times.
Slowly but surely, however, that refusal to be denied began to tell in favour of the Scots. And for all the bravery and invention of the Belgians, they couldn’t maintain their level for long enough to take this classic into a fifth set.
Jamie Murray had begun tentatively and the brothers suffered from some early misunderstandings. Goffin and Darcis, in contrast, were unused to playing as a doubles pair and yet seemed to have the better understanding for the first few games.
Some might say the match – and perhaps the entire Davis Cup final – turned on Andy Murray’s service game, the ninth of the first set. The Belgian pair looked ready to break at 0-30 and 30-40. Somehow Andy came up with deft half and drop-volleys just when it mattered to turn the momentum around.
Whereas Goffin had probably allowed himself to believe that he would be serving for the set, he suddenly found himself serving to save it. The shift in pressure clearly troubled him and the Murray brothers fed off that anxiety with superb play from the baseline and at the net. Murray won a volleying shoot-out to seal the set and from that moment you sensed it would be Great Britain’s day.
Not that the Belgians were finished, as they put fresh pressure on Jamie Murray’s serve to create three break points in the third game of the second set. They seized the third opportunity and brought the house down as their fans realised they were still in with a shout. When the Belgians consolidated to go 3-1 ahead, the Murray brothers knew there was still much work to be done.
Andy Murray did have a chance to put the set back on serve but mistimed his forehand on break point. The Belgians grew in confidence, until Darcis served for the set. He dealt with the pressure superbly as he and Goffin played some of their best tennis to draw level in the match at one set all.
It was looking ominous for the Brits when Jamie Murray failed to hold serve early in the third set. He seemed to be buckling under the pressure but showed his true colours with some deft work in the very next game as Darcis was broken too. Jamie grew in confidence and starred again as Goffin’s serve was broken two games later.
Suddenly the Murrays were in control again at 4-2 in the third. So Jamie must have been more frustrated than anyone when he was broken yet again to put the set back on serve. But he used that setback positively as Darcis failed to hold, with Jamie more aggressive than ever.
Andy Murray served for the set. He let out a triumphant yell as yet another missile proved too much for the Belgian receivers, and Great Britain were two sets to one ahead.
The Brits were playing their best tennis when the Belgians were serving; and poor Steve Darcis looked the most vulnerable of the four players out there, broken yet again early in the fourth set.
The second most vulnerable, Jamie Murray, had to save seven break points in his next service game and did so partly through his own determination, partly through the brilliant and protective intervention of his brother Andy.
It was almost predictable that the fading Darcis would be broken one last time to set up Britain’s victory. Having gone through so many moments of self-doubt, it was perhaps fitting that Jamie Murray had earned the right to close the match out. He did so delightedly, with more help from his brother.
What a memorable day – and now GB are just one Andy Murray singles victory away from historic glory.
Buy Wimbledon 2016 Tickets by clicking here – and savour the feelgood atmosphere next summer.