This year has been a strange one for the Davis Cup. The usual contestants all disappeared early as France, the Czech Republic, and defending champion Switzerland all lost before the semifinals. As the dust settles, we are left with an unlikely matchup of unseeded teams in the final. Both Great Britain and Belgium upset several higher-ranked teams to get where they are. For Great Britain, it is their first final since 1978; if they win, it will be their first Davis Cup title since 1936. For Belgium, it is their first final since 1904; if they win, it will be their first-ever Davis Cup title.
The Great Britain team starts and ends with Andy Murray. He has won all five singles matches, as well as the two doubles matches he has played this year. James Ward was the hero in the first round when he defeated John Isner 15-13 in the 5th set to give Great Britain a 2-0 lead. In the final, the No. 2 spot will be between Ward and Kyle Edmund. It’s pretty obvious that the Murray brothers will be teaming up for the doubles after their heroics against France and Australia.
In a similar way, David Goffin is the center of the Belgian team. They need two wins from their star player if they hope to take home one of the best trophies in all of sports. Steve Darcis may be more important in the No. 2 singles slot than their doubles team.
How They Got Here:
Great Britain defeated the United States 3-2, and then upset top-seed France in the quarterfinals. After tying it up with a win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on clay, the Murray brothers fought out a tough four-set doubles win over Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut. Murray’s amazing determination to get a comeback win over Gilles Simon seemed to be the turning point for the British team. It was suddenly from this point that a Davis Cup championship for Great Britain didn’t seem like such a crazy idea. I still don’t know how Murray won that match, but that was the pivotal point of the season for this team.
In the semifinals, Great Britain may have been lucky with all the hoopla surrounding Bernard Tomic (on the team, off the team, on the team) and Nicholas Kyrgios (timeout for you!). With Kyrgios excused from the team, Murray took care of Tomic and Kokkinakis, and in the doubles teamed up with Jamie to come from a set down to get the win. That five-set doubles match may have been the match that decided the 2015 Davis Cup champion. Lleyton Hewitt was playing in his final Davis Cup, and alongside Sam Groth, threw everything they had at the Murray Brothers, but the Murrays came from behind to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4.
As for Belgium, they were also the underdogs in every round. They were fortunate to draw a Federer/Wawrinka-less No. 2 Swiss team in the first round but still barely won 3-2. In the quarterfinals against the No. 8 team, Canada, they were again fortunate in that Raonic and Pospisil were out with injuries, so they won easily 5-0.
Against the No. 5 team, the favored Argentina, Goffin won both of his singles matches, but they dropped the doubles and it looked over, but somehow Darcis came through for the Belgians and defeated the higher-ranked Federico Delbonis and sent the Belgians to the final for the first time in 111 years.
Both teams have been fortunate in getting to the final but here they are. There is no mistaking that this is Murray’s and Goffin’s teams. Each team has needed their unlikely heroes (Ward and Darcis), but whether they win or not depends on the performances of their star players.
Singles: Andy Murray (2) vs. David Goffin (16)
Murray leads the head-to-head 2-0. Goffin has yet to win a set off Murray. We all saw the beat down that Murray put on Goffin at the Paris Masters where he allowed Goffin only one game. Murray is definitely the favorite here. The things Belgium must count on are the clay court, Murray’s fatigue from the World Tour Finals, and the home-court advantage. That probably won’t be enough for Goffin to be able to upset a determined Murray. Great Britain 1-0 Belgium
Singles: Steve Darcis (84) vs. Kyle Edmund (100) or James Ward (159)
Darcis has to win here to give Belgium a chance. Neither Edmund nor Ward have played Darcis before, but just from Davis Cup experience and ranking, you would have to give the edge to Darcis. But it’s a small edge. Tied 1-1
Doubles: Andy and Jaime Murray vs. Rueben Bemelmans and Kimmer Coppejans (or Steve Darcis)
After their heroics in the last two rounds, you have to expect Great Britain will go with the Murray Brothers. Belgium has gone with a different team each time. Bemelmans (doubles ranking No. 160) had three different partners in the first three rounds, so it’s tough to guess with whom he will team up. Coppejans (doubles ranking No. 501) might be our best bet but the Belgian team might go with Darcis (doubles ranking No. 596). Still, Great Britain has Jamie Murray, one of the best doubles players at the moment, so the British look good here. Great Britain leads 2-1
Singles: Andy Murray vs. Steve Darcis
This is their first meeting but it’s difficult to imagine Murray going down to Darcis after the solid, consistent season he had and with so much riding on the line. Great Britain leads 3-1
Singles: David Goffin vs. Kyle Edmund or James Ward
Goffin has never met either British player, but he would have to be favored in this one. That is to say, if there is a fifth match. Great Britain leads 3-2
Great Britain will be playing in its first final since 1978, and they will be trying to win their first Davis Cup title since 1936 (their 10th overall). Belgium is in its first final since 1904, and it would be their first title if they win. The two countries have met in Davis Cup competition 11 times. Great Britain has won seven of the meetings, but Belgium won their most recent meeting in 2012.
Team Great Britain has defeated the top three teams with the most Davis Cup championships to get to the final: United States (32), France (9), and Australia (28).
Great Britain wins 3-2 on the strength of three Murray wins for its first Davis Cup championship in 79 years.
If Great Britain does win, they better give Judy Murray a Davis Cup trophy of her own!
May there be no terrorism and may all the players, fans, and people working at the venues be safe.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis (Andy Murray), Tatiana (David Goffin) and elPadawan (Davis Cup trophy).