Edmund admits to emotional and physical struggle in the last two sets
Goffin felt pressure of expectation to win the first point.
GHENT, BELGIUM – Britain’s Kyle Edmund was edged out in a five-set baptism of fire by David Goffin, after leading the hosts two sets to love, as he made his debut in the Davis Cup Final.
It was imperative that Edmund got off to a decent start, and a hard fought start it was too. He was moving and hitting well, but you had to feel that Goffin maybe had the edge over the longer rallies, but time and again some hefty serving got him out of trouble in a service game that took us into double-figure minutes.
Yet after all the talk of home advantage it was a very nervy start from the Belgian No. 1, with Edmund wasting no time in converting his first break point against the hosts.
Nerves looked to have settled for Edmund, with sharp movement, and confident hitting to hold his serve to love – a marked contrast from the 12 minute opener. Even when it looked like Goffin was getting his feet under the table finally, some ferocious hitting balanced with delicate finesse got Edmund back in contention. To give Goffin his credit, he managed to save a set point and save the host’s blushes to get a game on the board and struck another blow as he finally broke back as Edmund was serving for the first set.
The comeback was on, much to the delight of the home crowd, but having built up insurance, Edmund just had to keep the nerves in check to close out the first set 6-3.
If the bubble was likely to burst it would be the come-down after such an exhilarating start but Edmund continued to hold his nerve as he broke at the start of the second set. With Goffin’s head dropping, Edmund looked to be in complete control as he ripped through the second set in less than half an hour to make it a mountain to climb for the World No. 16.
But as we know from our own team, it is possibly to climb back after being 0-2 down in a live rubber, and as Goffin tried to lift his game, it was important for Edmund to stick with him. The danger signs were there as Edmund surrendered his second service game of the match.
A dip in his concentration had to be expected, as the third set started to get away from him very quickly, and it was Goffin’s turn to get some daylight between him and the Brit on the scoreboard. A third straight break of the Brit’s serve was enough to keep the hosts in contention, as they took the third set 6-2.
It would be a stern test now for the Brit, and the nerves that were maybe present in that opener a couple of hours ago were returning. Speeding up his serve, a break to love was enough to put some pep back in the Belgian’s step.
Not even a pause for running repairs to the net could help bring some balance to Edmund, as Goffin quickly built up a 4-1 lead in the fourth. That being said, Edmund came out the winner of a five-setter in this year’s Roland Garros beating Frenchman Stephane Robert – could he do it again? He would have to regroup as the Belgian leveled the match.
The Brit looked to be struggling physically and mentally as Goffin swiftly racked up the games in the decider. The outcome was always likely to be a win on the board for the hosts, but Edmund as a lot to feel proud of once he has time to reflect, but no doubt the initial disappointment felt very raw.
Edmund said: “I was nervous naturally. I was just trying to focus on trying to block out the atmosphere, the occasion, and just play tennis, which is something I do every day. I hit thousands and thousands of balls. It couldn’t have gone any better.
“The third set he started to get on top of me. Then things started to fall away. In the fourth set I was struggling physically, and in the fifth set. It was just disappointing that my body couldn’t hold up the way I would have liked it to.
“That’s probably why I was upset at the end because I knew I had the chance to beat him. I was two sets to love up. It’s not a nice feeling losing two sets to love up, losing in five.”
Goffin acknowledged that this was no ordinary challenge, having been pushed to the limit.
He said: “First of all, Kyle played an unbelievable first two sets. He was really aggressive with his forehand. He played with his forehand with a lot of power. It was tough to manage it because I didn’t know Kyle before the match, how he plays.
“It was tough for me. From the beginning, I was a little bit tight also. But I knew we have a chance in the match. I had the chance in the third set. I knew when it was 3-1 for me, the match turned. It was better until the end. I tried to stay calm, to manage it very well. At the end I’m really happy to win the first point. People expected me to win the match, and that’s what I did.”
Edmund is still scheduled to play the Belgian No. 2 player in the tie on Sunday, should it come to a deciding rubber, although Leon Smith could choose to replace him with Davis Cup regular, James Ward.
The tie continued with Andy Murray against Ruben Bemelmans, and with the Murray brothers set to play in Saturday’s doubles.
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