Belgium and Great Britain aren’t often put in the same sentences. If they are, it’s usually in reference to the latter’s wartime bailouts of the former, or eurosceptics taking aim at the boffins in Brussels. This weekend, the two will be paired for an entirely different, much more pleasant reason – the 2015 Davis Cup finals.
If you haven’t been following Davis Cup tennis this year, you might be understandably confused about when exactly Belgium and the British actually became good at tennis. The short answer is, they really haven’t, but circumstances have allowed their mediocrity to each be buoyed by one upper-echelon player.
Starting with Belgium, world no. 16 David Goffin’s career year has carried the team in singles, but more importantly, they’ve never had to leave Belgian borders to play. And while Belgium doesn’t exactly have the best record of fending off foreign invasions, their 2015 Davis Cup campaign has been a very different story. Defeating Switzerland, Canada and Argentina, the success this team has had has either completely rewritten history, or is because they’re secretly German.
For the Brits, it’s been a story of not one, but two Murrays. Andy is set to finish the year at a career-best no. 2, while his brother Jaime has done likewise on the doubles circuit, finishing at no. 7. Beating the US, France and Australia en-route to the final, it almost hasn’t mattered who team GB’s other singles player is.
The funny thing is, it’s the “no-names” for each team that could make a world of difference in the final. Goffin could push Murray in their rubber, but the former was just rolled by the latter 6-0, 6-1 two weeks ago in Paris, so it’s hard to see the switch to Murray’s least-favourite surface – clay – making that much of a difference over five sets. Belgium simply can’t afford to lose the doubles, and will be relying on the pair of Kimmer Coppejans and Steve Darcis to get past the Murrays. Darcis is a cagey vet best known for knocking off Rafa Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon 2013, and will need to have a similarly superb serving day to carry the younger Coppejans. Having only played together in one round previously (where they beat Canada), there’s not a ton to go on, but they’ll be heavy underdogs against the two Scots.
If the Belgians do pull off an unlikely doubles victory, their chances of winning increase exponentially with the second return singles match between (most likely) Darcis and debutant Kyle Edmund. While Bemelmans is currently listed as the player to face Edmund, Darcis was the man to deliver Belgium in the semis against Argentina, and proved his big-game credentials in the aforementioned stoush with Rafa. Edmund is an unknown quantity, and with the crowd against him, he would be hard pressed to take the victory.
So does Belgium has a chance? Yes, but they’ll only go as far as their lesser lights can take them. The problem is, they’re lesser lights for a reason. Murray will continue to carry the singles, but the doubles will be huge, with the switch to clay nullifying some of their serve-and-volleying, it will decide whether the tie is a British landslide or an epic Belgian win at the death. Realistically, all signs point to a 3-2 win for the Brits, but crazy things can happen in Davis Cup Tennis – if they didn’t, Belgium and Great Britain wouldn’t be there in the first place.