November 27, 2015
David Goffin conjured a dramatic comeback to take the first rubber and therefore boost Belgium’s chances of pulling off an upset in the Davis Cup final.
Goffin said: ‘It wasn’t easy, he played some heavy forehands in the first two sets. I knew if he played like that in the third, I had to say “bravo, well done.” But in the end I’m really happy at the way I turned the match.’
Young Kyle Edmund had been one set away from producing the greatest debut in Davis Cup history.
No player had ever won a live rubber on debut in the final before. But initially Edmund didn’t seem to care about the odds that were stacked against him.
The little-known 20-year-old, who is world number 100, won a titanic, 12-minute struggle for the very first game of the match against 16th-ranked Goffin – and got off to a flyer from there.
But Goffin recaptured his best tennis in the nick of time, and really made Edmund pay for some increasingly tentative serves and ground strokes as the match turned on its head. This was the Belgian’s first ever five-set triumph after coming from two down – and richly deserved in the end.
The 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 scoreline reflected the control of the match Edmund had after a gutsy first two sets; and the way he was relentlessly outgunned when it mattered.
It was extraordinary to recall that Edmund had even enjoyed a point to take the first set 6-0. And although a shell-shocked David Goffin had managed a mini-comeback, the powerful Brit had held his nerve to close that one out.
It was an amazing display of early confidence from a young man whose inclusion for the final had been regarded as something of a gamble.
Goffin’s nerve and appetite for the contest seemed to have disappeared entirely at one point, even though the little Belgian was on home soil.
When Goffin should have been asking questions of Edmund’s mobility and footwork, the favourite lost all composure during the second set and played into his opponent’s hands, even double-faulting on big points.
Astonishingly, Edmund seemed to win that set with even more ease, and Goffin’s famed precision in the baseline rallies appeared to have deserted him.
We waited for the Goffin comeback, since it surely had to come in such a massive match. If it hadn’t, there was the possibility that Great Britain might even have wrapped up their first Davis Cup since 1936 as early as Saturday.
Sure enough, Goffin broke for only the second time in the match to take a 3-1 lead in the third. And a cry of “out” from the Belgian crowd, when an Edmund shot had struck the baseline, further unsettled the younger man as he was broken again. But Edmund showed further character to break straight back and stay in the set a little longer.
He couldn’t maintain the momentum, though. Pretty soon Goffin’s fighting spirit had prevailed once more, it was two sets to one, and the biggest test of Edmund’s nerve was still to come. Goffin sensed fatigue and uncertainty on the other side of the nest and moved in for the kill. The ease with which he won the fourth set was almost cruel to the player whose dreams were slipping away.
There was only ever going to be one winner of the fifth, as Edmund’s timing and power ebbed away. You had to admire the way Goffin came back from the dead to keep this much-anticipated Davis Cup final wide open.
For Edmund, the experience was ultimately both painful and educational. However, he has demonstrated the promise to be able to enjoy big days like this much more in the future.
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