Murray helps restore parity ahead of Davis Cup doubles

Great Britain's Andy Murray celebrates victory against Belgium's Ruben Bemelmans (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire).
Great Britain's Andy Murray celebrates victory against Belgium's Ruben Bemelmans (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire).
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Great Britain and Belgium are locked at 1-1 after the first day of play in the Davis Cup final, but there was plenty of drama on the way to the expected results.

Belgium’s banker was the first rubber between David Goffin and Kyle Edmund but, when the 20-year-old from Yorkshire took the opening two sets, it looked like the 13,000 fans packed into Ghent’s Flanders Expo were witnessing one of the great sporting debuts.

However, Goffin discovered his form just in time and Edmund wilted physically and mentally to go down 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0 in just his second five-set match.

As is so often the case, it was therefore left to Andy Murray to get Great Britain’s first point on the board, and the world No 2 duly obliged with a 6-3 6-2 7-5 win over Ruben Bemelmans.

The suspicion was by playing 108th-ranked Bemelmans instead of their No 2 Steve Darcis, the Belgians had effectively sacrificed the second rubber in the hope it would pay off later in the tie.

But Bemelmans, a stylish left-hander and serial drop-shotter, rose to the occasion, particularly in a feisty third set where the already raucous atmosphere went up another notch.

He led 4-2 after Murray lost concentration having been given a point penalty for two audible obscenities.

Bemelmans also had a set point after Murray double-faulted, but the Scot saved it, let out a huge roar, and then reeled off three games in a row to win the match.

The victory made it nine out of nine for Murray in Davis Cup this year and he will look to make it 10 alongside his brother Jamie in the doubles today.

Murray and captain Leon Smith both had conversations with umpire Carlos Ramos and referee Soren Friemel about the point penalty, and Murray revealed he was unaware he had been given either warning.

He said: “It’s obviously very loud after the point. That was why I went to speak to the umpire, because literally I had no idea about either of the warnings because you can’t hear anything on the court. So I’m surprised he could hear what I was saying.”

He added: “I didn’t think they crossed the line, to be honest. But as the server, I’m not going to serve obviously when the crowd are making any noise because it’s off-putting. That’s something that in tennis is a rule really.

“All of the players obviously wait until the crowd is silent.

“I know that with playing at home comes pressure, as well. Obviously both of their players came out a little bit nervous in both matches.

“But then as the matches progressed they started to loosen up and play better.

“So, yeah, you just have to use it to your advantage when you can. I think we did a decent job of that because we got off to the better starts.”

Murray was forced to wait time and again before serving because of the noise of the crowd and Friemel spoke to Belgian captain Johan van Herck about it, although there was no official warning.

“I said he didn’t need to compensate because I feel the crowd for a Davis Cup final was very respectful,” said van Herck.

“Okay, there was noise, but there will always be noise. I didn’t feel like we should get any warning or discussion about the public.”

Murray normally relishes a hostile atmosphere, and he said: “I’m experienced enough now to not allow it to bother me, and try to use it to my advantage as much as I can.”