Murray 11-0 in Davis Cup this year
Murray won three matches over the weekend
Belgium still without a title
Belgium rode its luck this year in the Davis Cup. It faced a Swiss side bereft of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, a Canadian line-up missing Milos Raonic and Wimbledon quarterfinalist Vasek Pospisil and an Argentina squad devoid of Juan Martin del Potro.
But, to the detriment of the Belgians, Andy Murray showed up for this weekend’s final in Ghent.
Murray clinched Great Britain’s first title in the team competition since 1936 when he defeated David Goffin 6-3 7-5 6-3 on Sunday, and it was only fitting that the 28-year-old applied the knockout blow for the visitors at the 13,000 capacity Flanders Expo. Great Britain triumphed on the clay 3-1.
Murray was a one-man show in 2015, compiling an 11-0 record versus the tough trio of the U.S., France, Australia and now Belgium. In singles his teammates, meanwhile, went 1-4, although that one win – James Ward’s upset of the U.S.’s John Isner in the first round in March – was pivotal.
Only John McEnroe in 1982 has had a better season statistically in the Davis Cup, going 12-0. Had Murray been forced to play another match this year, he’d probably have equaled the American.
“Really impressive from Andy Murray,” tweeted former No. 1 and Davis Cup winner Andy Roddick. “One of the best Davis Cup years in history.”
Murray also became the first man since legendary American Pete Sampras in 1995 to win three so-called live rubbers in a final, having rescued Great Britain on Friday in the opening singles matches and played a starring role in Saturday’s victory in the doubles over Goffin and Steve Darcis alongside older brother Jamie.
“Andy has just shown himself to be an absolute superstar again,” British captain Leon Smith told the BBC. “He’ll be the first to say it’s a team thing but what he’s put himself through this year has been astonishing.”
The Scot is somewhat behind Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in pedigree – his fellow “Big Four” members – but the world No. 2 joined the trio in landing grand slams and a Davis Cup crown. Like Federer and Nadal, Murray possesses an Olympic gold medal, too.
“It feels amazing,” said Murray. “I never thought we would have the opportunity to do this. I can’t believe we did it. It’s unbelievably tough. Tough year.
“We have to enjoy this because we may never have an opportunity to do this again as a team.”
Belgium, which fell to Great Britain in its lone other final in 1904, needed the 16th-ranked Goffin to upset Murray to keep the series going. But the chances of that happening were always slim.
Goffin is an entertainer and shot-maker, though the 24-year-old lacks a sizable weapon to trouble the top-10. He entered the contest with an 0-9 record against such opposition in 2015 and was 1-22 lifetime. Further, Murray crushed the diminutive Goffin 6-1 6-0 at the Paris Masters in early November.
And whereas Murray is used to playing three straight days in the Davis Cup – where matches are best-of-five sets – it’s not so for Goffin.
“I have no regrets,” Goffin was quoted as saying by the ITF, the world governing body. “After a match like this, and a tie, we can all be proud. Even if we lost the tie today, I think we played an unbelievable season in the Davis Cup.
“I think Andy and Great Britain deserves the trophy today.”
As is often the case in tennis, failure to convert a break point in one game for the underdog can serve as a momentum changer. It happened in the opening set.
With Goffin holding the break point at 2-2, a small section of the crowd attempted to put off Murray between first and second serve. The opposite ultimately happened. A riled Murray, who was watched by his parents and grandparents, produced a giant second delivery to prompt a return error.
He held and then immediately broke for 4-2, claiming seven consecutive points.
The same thing nearly transpired in the second. On break point in the second game, Murray authored a fine first serve down the middle. Goffin, not the tallest of players – generously, perhaps, listed at 5-foot-11 – couldn’t reach it.
Would Murray pounce in the ensuing game? He should have. On the first of two break points, he worked an opening, only to strike an inside-out forehand wide.
Goffin stayed with Murray and edged in front at 5-4, a difficult position for the latter. Goffin bossed the first two points of the 10th game – but lost them both.
In the 11th, up 15-0, Goffin sent a sitter of a forehand half-volley into the net with Murray in deep trouble. It was a costly error, as Murray broke.
There was yet another missed opportunity for Goffin at 5-6; Murray trailed 0-30 on serve. Murray, however, rallied and sealed the set with a stunning forehand following a lengthy exchange. He turned and roared to the crowd.
If the match wasn’t over after the first set, it was realistically done after the second, despite Goffin fending off two break points to begin the third and breaking for 2-0. He subsequently held a break point at 3-2, foiled again by a serve down the middle. Murray prevailed on all the big points, gaining the upper hand for 4-3.
“I think I made it very difficult for David today,” said Murray. “I made him work for every point.”
The match and series concluded in spectacular fashion, Murray hitting a perfect topspin lob winner.
He sunk to the court and shed tears.
He was also carried by his teammates. How appropriate given his efforts.