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.
Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics
After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.
Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics.
The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events.
Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.
“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”
The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).
Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.
“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”
Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.
The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th.
Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade
A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.
The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.
UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.
“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”
When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.
The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.
This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.
Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021
Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.
The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.
Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.
The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.
“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.
As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’
Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.
”We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”
There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.
The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.
Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals
Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)
- Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
- Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
- Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
- Semi-finals and final
Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)
- Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
- Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
- Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F
Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)
- Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
- Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
- Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E
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