Ghent will host the eagerly-awaited Davis Cup Final between Great Britain and Belgium this weekend on the indoor clay surface of the Flanders Expo. Great Britain has reached the Davis Cup Final for the first time since 1978 and will be bidding to win their first title since 1936. Belgium has not reached the Davis Cup final since 1904.
Belgium and Great Britain have clashed eleven times in their long Davis Cup history. These countries met for the first time in the final of the 1904 edition when Great Britain won 5-0 at Wimbledon. Their last Davis Cup clash dates back to 2012 when Belgium won 4-1 in Glasgow.
British tennis Number 1 player Andy Murray will be looking to add his first Davis Cup title to his long list of honours which includes the 2012 Olympic gold medal, the US Open title in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013 when he became the first British man to win at the All-England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. With a win at this weekend’s Davis Cup final in Ghent, Murray would equal Fred Perry who led to the last British triumph in 1936 when Great Britain beat Australia 3-2 at Wimbledon. Great Britain has played in 17 Davis Cup finals, winning the trophy 9 times.
Murray led the British team to the final with singles and doubles wins over three big Davis Cup nations. The Dunblane star contributed significantly to the three British wins over the USA, France and Australia this year winning eight of the nine rubbers in 2015. The only other British win which did not involve Murray came from James Ward who beat John Isner in five sets in the first round match against the USA.
In the clash with America last March, Murray beat Donald Young in four sets before Ward fought back from two sets down to upset Isner in a thrilling five set match with 6-7 (5-7) 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 15-13, which lasted almost five hours. After a win by the Bryan brothers over Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot in five sets, Murray beat Isner in three sets.
Andy and Jamie Murray secured all the three points in the 3-1 win over nine-time Davis Cup champions France at the Queen’s Club last July. After a win by Gilles Simon over James Ward, Andy Murray beat Jo Wilfried Tsonga to draw level to 1-1. The Murray brothers beat Tsonga and Nicholas Mahut in the doubles match before Andy won a tough four-set match against Simon. The win resulted in Great Britain qualifying for their first Davis Cup semifinal since 1981.
The results of the Murray brothers have put their native town Dunblane in the spotlight. A tweet after their quarter final against France stated: “If Dunblane declared independence, they could win the Davis Cup”.
Judy Murray, the mother of Andy and Jamie and Fed Cup captain, also spoke about how the performance by Murray brothers have brought pride to their home town.
“There is a huge sense of pride in what the boys have achieved. It just brings so much excitement to the people in Dunblane. To see them go out there and play together for their country is a very special moment. For Dunblane it’s a huge thing. Andy and Jamie started out as two little tots with tiny rackets and shorts way too big for them. Who could have believed they would end up where they are?” said Judy Murray.
In Great Britain’s semifinal against Australia last September Andy Murray beat Thanasi Kokkinakis in three sets before Bernard Tomic beat Dan Evans to draw level to 1-1. Andy and Jamie Murray then won the crucial doubles match against Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in five sets. Andy Murray sealed the first Davis Cup final for his country since 1978 with a three-set win over Bernard Tomic. Shortly after the win, Murray spoke about how much the trophy would mean for his country.
“To win the biggest team competition in tennis having beaten the other three Grand Slam nations would be a huge victory for everyone in the team. It would be well-deserved as well. It’s taken a lot of time and hard work from many players, many of the staff, coaches, physios, everyone. It’s taken five years. It’s taken five years. When you win a Slam or a big competition, it’s obviously years in the work but this is a bit different. The last five years it’s been a progression from a pretty low place in world tennis, to playing for the biggets team competition. It would be big for everyone involved for sure”, said Murray.
British captain Leon Smith is yet to choose between James Ward and Kyle Edmund for the second singles spot in the British team this week-end. Edmund has recently boosted his chance to be chosen as the second singles player after winning the ATP Challenger in Buenos Aires, defeating Carlos Berloq on clay. Edmund has improved his ranking from world number 191 to number 99 and has showed a good attitude to play on the clay surface. Edmund won two doubles junior Grand Slam titles at the 2012 US Open and at the 2013 French Open and reached two Junior semifinals at the 2011 US Open and at Wimbledon in 2013.
Belgium will play their first Davis Cup final since 1904 and obviously this weekend’s event will be one of the greatest highlights for Belgian sport this year. Belgium has only reached the semifinal stage twice since 1981.
The team captained by Johan Van Herck has reached the historic final after a successful campaign highlighted by wins over 2014 Davis Cup champions Switzerland followed by Canada and Argentina.
“For us it’s a huge event. I think for Belgium it’s important not only for tennis but sport in general. It’s a good team effort. I think everyone in Belgium appreciates that. We will to go one step further. The whole country will be behind us and we will try to keep the trophy here”, said Belgian captain van Herck.
Belgium’s top player David Goffin will carry the major hopes for the home team. Goffin lost against Andy Murray 1-6 1-6 in their recent head-to-head match in Paris Bercy but this weekend’s final will be a totally different story. The unique Davis Cup atmosphere and a different surface could turn around the predictions in favour of the Belgian star who will rely on the strong support from the home crowd.
In this year’s Davis Cup Goffin scored the decisive 3-2 point in the first round match against Switzerland with a straight-set win over Swiss Adrien Bossel in the fifth match. In the semifinal Goffin beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in straight sets to draw level to 2-2 after Argentina took the 2-1 lead after the win in the doubles match.
Goffin has a win-loss record of 37-24 this year and reached two finals at s’Hertogenbosch and Gstaad. He also reached the quarter finals in Rome, Munich and Basel as well as the semifinals in Chennai. His best result at the Grand Slams in 2015 was reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“The day I played against Andy in Bercy it was just a off-day for me”, said Goffin. “I didn’t play really well. Andy was really aggressive. He played an unbelievable match there but it’s different conditions here. It’s a completely different match and another match. I just have to forget this match and think about the matches of this week-end”, said Goffin.
Belgium started this year’s campaign with a dramatic 3-2 win over a Swiss team without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka before crushing Canada 5-0 last July. Last September Belgium delighted the home fans at the Forest National in Brussels with another dramatic 3-2 over Argentina.
The other man to watch on the Belgian side will be Steve Darcis who has won four decisive fifth rubber matches for his team at 2-2, including the decisive clash against Federico Delbonis from Argentina last September in Brussels. In that dramatic match Delbonis fended off two match points in the fourth set as Darcis was serving at 5-4 before the Belgian clinched a dramatic 3-2 win in the tie-break.
However, there is a question match on Darcis’ form as the 31-year-old Belgian player was forced to retire from a match against Richard Gasquet with a left ankle injury last month in Stockholm.
Belgium will also feature Ruben Bemelmans, who will play in the doubles, and 21-year-old Kimmer Coppejans. Bemelmans teamed up with Coppejans in the four-set doubles match over Canada last July.
The Belgian team has enlisted the help of former French player Michael Llodra, who was recently contacted by the Belgian tennis Federation to offer his advice for the doubles during the Davis Cup final.
“This is a very exciting challenge when you know how difficult it is to win that title”, said Llodra.
The Final between the two countries will get start on Friday at 12:30 GMT.
Is Covid-19 Just An Excuse To Axe The 2020 Davis Cup Finals?
The decision to cancel the team event five months before it was set to start may be more complex than what officials are letting on.
On Friday the International Tennis Federation issued a statement to confirm that their two premier tennis team events will not be taking place this year.
The Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments have been delayed until 2021 due to the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Davis Cup, it is only the 12th time in history a season has ended without a champion being decided since its birth in 1900 and the first since 1945. The teams that have qualified for the week-long finals this year will instead have to wait until November 2021 to battle it out for the title.
“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”
There are however some questions over why the ITF has made this announcement five months before the start of the tournament. Especially when both the ATP and WTA Tours are set to restart in August. Furthermore Madrid, where this year’s finals were scheduled to take place, will still host their premier combined event at the Caja Magica in September.
“It’s the inconsistencies that I find tedious. Two months before the Davis Cup was meant to be playing we are playing at the same venue in Madrid for the masters. In regards to the crowds there seemed to be a fair bit of social distancing at this event last year,” John Millman wrote on Twitter.
It appears that there could be a more substantial financial reason to postpone the Kosmos-backed event. Investment company Kosmos was founded by Gerard Pique and has pledged millions into the Davis Cup in a deal to help revamp it. French newspaper L’Equipe have quoted sources reporting that the event lost an astonishing 50 million euros in 2019, which was the first year where the new format took place. Furthermore, it has been reported that the decision to scrap November’s event will help save 18 million euros.
Furthermore, one senior figure at Tennis Canada has suggested that Pique had tried to do everything he could to prevent the tournament from taking place. Louis Borfiga, who serves as his country’s Vice President of High Performance, said he believes there has been no meetings with the federations prior to Friday’s announcement.
“While everyone is doing everything possible to try to replay, I have the impression that Piqué did everything to prevent the Davis Cup from taking place this year,” he said in a separate interview with L’Equipe.
“ They (Kosmos leaders) put forward health reasons, I hope they are the right ones. They are going to have the right role. There is nothing we can say about health.”
“When I read the official press release, I am surprised by one thing. It is Piqué who speaks first, and the president of the ITF (David Haggerty) after. That too is shocking.” He added.
Borfiga is not alone in this view. Back in March tennis player Nicola Mahut criticised Pique for not being more optimistic about holding the finals this year. The Spaniard had previously said he was ‘pessimistic’ about having the event without fans.
“The message he sent through his statements is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it will be cancelled and he will save some money.” Mahut commented.
According to Diario AS, the Madrid economy will lose in the region of 50 million euros due to the finals not being held. Furthermore, it is estimated that 600 jobs would have been created to support the running of the tournament from start to finish.
Gerard Pique’s Pessimistic Davis Cup Outlook Blasted By French Tennis Star
The football player has been urged to ‘put more energy’ in finding a solution for the event to take place in 2020.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has come under fire over his plans for the Davis Cup Finals later this year after recently casting doubt on the event taking place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Pique, whose company helped finance the transformation of the 120-year-old team competition, recently admitted that he was doubtful that the event could go ahead if crowds weren’t allowed to attend. Last year was the first time the new format of the competition took place with 18 teams featuring in a week-long round-robin tournament which was won by host nation Spain.
“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup with no fans is difficult,” Pique told Movistar.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll have the ability to have fans.”
All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic. Officials are hoping to be able to get the sport going again in August ahead of the US Open that is scheduled to take place. Although some have doubts about the chances of the Tour’s starting by then, including world No.43 John Millman.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty, French tennis star Nicolas Mahut has criticized Pique’s bleak outlook for this year’s Davis Cup finale. The 38-year-old has represented his country in 13 ties, including the 2018 final as well as the semifinals in two other years.
“We don’t have a lot of information. But as a player, you can just trust the official statements. And when I hear Pique, I’m extremely disappointed,” Mahut told L’Equipe.
Mahut has called on Pique to explore more options such as potentially relocating the event to another country if it would make it safer for the event to go ahead. Implying that he was his duty to do so after setting ‘to destroy the formula’ of the event. Critics of the revamp have accused Pique of ruining the traditional competition.
“I would like him to put as much energy into saving the Davis Cup that he has set up. That is to say, to find solutions for it to take place in Madrid or elsewhere, as he has set to destroy the formula that had been in place for over a hundred years,” he said,
“The message he sent through his statements, is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it cancels and I save some money. ” And it bothers me a lot compared to what has happened for more than a year. We don’t play with this competition. Maybe that suits it.”
Kosmos has signed a $3 billion 25-year deal with the ITF to acquire the rights for the Davis Cup Finals.
Davis Cup Finals In Doubt, Admits Gerard Pique
The Kosmos founder explains why he isn’t too optimistic about the team event going ahead later this year.
The chances of this year’s Davis Cup Finals taking place are still up in the air with one of the key figures involved in the competition openly saying that he is ‘pessimistic’ about its chances.
Football star Gerard Pique is one the driving forces behind the new format following a huge financial investment from his company Kosmos. Signing a 25-year deal with the International Tennis Federation worth in the region of $3 billion. Despite the significant investment, Pique admits that he has low hopes of the event taking place later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All professional tennis tournaments have been halted since March.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, we try to be aware of what the government says regarding sports and to whether we can put spectators inside the Caja Magica,” Pique said during an interview with Movistar.
“I would say I am a bit pessimistic, because a Davis Cup without fans is difficult.
“I think that nobody at the moment has the certainty that we can put fans in or if it will have to be behind closed doors. As the days go by, I suppose we will have a little more clarity.”
Spain is currently in the process of relaxing some of their lockdown restrictions with tennis players being able to train at local facilities from next week. The country is following a four-stage plan with the hope that their premier La Liga football league will resume next month at some stage.
However, the issue for the Davis Cup is the limited number of fans that would be able to go to the tournament if it takes place. In more advanced stages of the plans, no more than 50 people can attend an indoor venue. Although the number could be increased by November, it will be a stark difference to 2019. Held at the Caja Magica, the total capacity of the premier court is 12,500 people.
Last year’s final saw Spain lift the title for the first time since 2011 after they defeated Canada in the final. The two teams are seeded third and sixth in this year’s draw.
The Davis Cup is scheduled to take place between November 23-29 in Madrid. The ATP, WTA and ITF will not restart their Tour’s until at least July 13th, however, there is speculation that the suspension will be extended in the coming weeks.
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