Will return with brother Jamie Murray but Belgian line-up likely to change
GHENT, BELGIUM – Andy Murray evened the tie in the Davis Cup Final with Belgium, after defeating Ruben Bemelmans in straight sets.
The expectation was that Murray would deliver some swift revenge to have the teams level going into the oft-influential doubles rubber on Saturday, after Kyle Edmund lost the first rubber from the commanding position of being two sets up. Certainly it was a strong start (something we had seen before) as Murray sought to build up some distance between him and he Belgian left-hander.
Remember though, Belgium have played all their ties this year at home, and while David Goffin looked almost crippled early on with the pressure on his boy-like shoulders, Bemelmans was having none of that, quickly breaking Murray back, and showing he meant business.
Bemelmans was showing some deft touches as Murray went sprawling on the dirt early, but delivering the second break to soothe the scratches and grazes from the clay.
Many thought that Bemelmans had been almost a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter to save Steve Darcis, so often the hero for Belgium for a potentially decisive rubber, but the Belgian was doing a more than passable job of penciling himself into to Sunday’s slate.
While Murray started well within himself, as the match wore on it became more and more apparent that he was going to need more dazzle to dim the Belgian’s spark, eventually needing two set points to put the first set away.
That momentum stayed with the Brit, breaking Bemelmans right at the start of the second set, but still having to find some incredibly tenacious tennis to keep him at bay, before again just nudging ahead with a later break to take the second set comfortably.
Murray started to put a lot more pep into his ground strokes, painting the lines and targeting the corners, as he sought to find a weakness in the Belgian’s armory for another break advantage.
Time and again though Bemelmans would leave Murray dashing forward with killer drop-shots, drawing frustration from Murray, resulting in a second code violation and a point deducted. The Belgian crowd chanting ‘’Ruben’ and roundly booing Murray as both he and Leon Smith appealed umpire Carlos Ramos’ decision but to no avail.
Were we about to see another Belgian turnaround? Murray battled to halt that but failed to convert on two break point chances as Bemelmans, as he stayed with the Brit in the third set, holding three break points. There was more drama to come as it was the turn of the Belgians to feel the threat of a point deduction as the supervisor warned them for crowd disruption ahead of Murray’s serve. It was not enough to give the Brit a chance to salvage the game as the Brit lost hs serve for only the second time in the match.
Not to be outdone, he went on to break straight back, giving the raucous British crowd something to match the Belgians with, as he clawed himself back onto equal terms. Murray started toying with Bemelmans – a cheeky drop shot and a lob in the impossibly low-ceilinged court.
No doubt desperate to be off the court in three sets with a crucial doubles rubber to follow, Murray served to stay in the set, having to come from 15/30 down only to hand set point over with a double fault. Digging himself out of trouble and no doubt feeding off the crowd, Murray saved a set point and put the pressure right back on Bemelmans.
Perhaps having a set in his grasp only to lose it left the Belgian feeling a little lost, as Murray swiftly broke him to love, going on to show him exactly how to serve out a set, and indeed the match.
There is a lot of tennis still to be played, and Belgian Team Captian Johan Van Herck has options – Andy and Jamie Murray could well find themselves facing a combination of Goffin and Bemelmans or Darcis alongside the World No. 16.
None of this seemed to phase Murray, who will be pivotal (as will potentially Goffin) to his team’s efforts.
“I believe in myself. I believe in me and Jamie as a doubles team, as well. But it’s obviously going to be tough. I mean, Goffin’s a top-quality player when he plays well. He’s ranked 15, 16 in the world, plays well on the clay.
“I’m aware that will be a very tough match to win. In the doubles, Davis Cup is always tough, never easy, just because of the way doubles is played. I believe we can win the tie, obviously, otherwise there would be no point in us being there. But it’s going to be tough, for sure.”
The doubles will be played at 3pm (2pm GMT) om Saturday.
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