By Ros Satar
- Belgium will host the Davis Cup Final against Great Britain at the Flanders Expo hall in Ghent
- They have opted for red clay
- Andy Murray tweets he’s ready, despite hinting it would affect his decision to play the World Tour Finals at the O2, London
Ghent, Belgium – It is now confirmed that the Davis Cup Final will be held at the Flanders Expo in Ghent against Belgium and Great Britain after their thrilling wins last weekend in the semi-finals.
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Prior to Belgium toppling Argentina, the search was already on for potential venues that might be free, but gigs and bizarrely a tattoo convention were among some of the events being held at the potential sites large enough to hold a Davis Cup final.
The Flanders Expo has capacity for a crowd of 13,000 and while Britain reached their first Davis Cup final since 1978, it has been a staggering 111 years since Belgium were in a similar position. Alas, on that occasion they lost to Great Britain 5-0 to a team headed up by a pair of tennis playing brothers (Laurence and Reginald Doherty).
Andy Murray, whose participation in both singles rubbers and the doubles in the quarter-final and the semi-finals were pivotal to Britain’s success had hinted to the BBC’s Russell Fuller that the Belgian destination would cast doubt on his participation at the ATP World Tour Finals – the elite competition at the season’s end.
He said to BBC Radio Five Live: “The O2 would obviously be a question mark for me if we were playing on the clay.
“I would go and train and prepare on the clay to get ready for the final. You saw last year with Roger Federer that the matches at the O2 are extremely tough and physically demanding.
“If you reach the final and play on the Sunday you also need to take time off – you can’t just play five matches against the best players in the world and then not take any days off.”
Having been trounced in the Round Robin stages by Federer, Murray ended up helping out the tournament when the Swiss pulled out of the final moments before it was due to start with back spasms, with Murray dashing across London to play a pro-set against eventual champion Novak Djokovic, and a doubles exhibition. Federer lost his opening singles rubber in the final against France before recovering sufficiently to partner Stan Wawrinka to a doubles win, and winning the decisive singles rubber to win the Davis Cup for Switzerland.
Murray continued: “For me to play – if I was to reach the final – five in a row and then take a couple of days off, it would mean only playing for two days on the clay before the Davis Cup final starts and that wouldn’t be enough for me.
“I need more time on the clay to let my back get used to it.”
However things may not be as clear cut as that, as tournament director Chris Kermode made it very clear that unless Murray withdrew with an injury, he would be expected to take up his place in the season finale, having already qualified.
“The ATP World Tour Finals is a mandatory event on the ATP World Tour,” he said. “All players who qualify, unless injured, are required to compete in the event.”
The ramifications, on paper at least, appear to be steep. He could lose significant financial bonuses for the year, and theoretically be banned from the ATP World Tour main draws, but Murray is a big draw for tournaments. He has a strong relationship with Kermode, and so it Is unlikely the tour would hit the World No. 3 with such heavy sanctions.
For Murray’s part, once the announcement was made, he reacted with a positive tweet:
So Ghent on the Clay for the davis cup final…very pumped! Think clay is a good surface for us👍 looking forward to it🏆
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) September 23, 2015
He is not wrong either – if we look at his wn/loss record against the likely Belgian singles players David Goffin and Steve Darcis, he matches up well this year:
Murray 15/2 (88.24%)
Goffin 12/7 (63.16%)
Darcis 6/6 (50%)
But the real strategy on the side of the Belgians has to be around the British No. 2 string.
James Ward, so long a stalwart of the side has had a shocker of a season since the highlight of making the third round of Wimbledon and cracking the Top 100 for the first time in his career. His stats on clay in 2015 are 4/5 (44.4%) but fans will always point out his outstanding performance on one of his weaker surfaces in the US on clay.
Welcomed back into the fold this year, and almost a thorn in Bernard Tomic‘s side, Dan Evans has not even touched clay this year, but has a higher percentage of success on the surface over his career than Ward.
So, will Leon Smith look to rookie Kyle Edmund to make his debut in a Davis Cup final? Edmund was highly fancied to make his debut in Glasgow, but an ankle injury saw Evans drafted in. Edmund is an extraordinarily grounded and hard working young player, and could well rise to the occasion if asked, with clay actually being his second best surface and in 2015 is 10/4 (71.43%) over the year.
With Britain relying on Murray for both the singles rubbers and the doubles if required, they will hope that the transition to clay will not be troublesome at the end of the season. Britain have come a long way since facing relegation in 2010, and it remains to be seen what Murray’s move will be.
Murray is next scheduled to appear in the Shanghai Masters, which starts on 11 October.