Andy Murray has backed Beverley’s Kyle Edmund to rise to the occasion when he makes his Davis Cup debut for Great Britain in the final against Belgium today.
Having agonised about who to pick as his second singles player, captain Leon Smith eventually plumped for 20-year-old Edmund ahead of James Ward, although he named both in his four-man team.
Edmund will open proceedings against Belgian No 1 David Goffin at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo in Ghent before Murray takes on Ruben Bemelmans.
The doubles tomorrow is scheduled to pit the Murray brothers against Steve Darcis and Kimmer Coppejans, although it would be no surprise at all if Belgium changed that line-up, with the reverse singles on Sunday.
The British team would have wanted today’s rubbers to be the other way round, giving Murray more time to recover for Saturday’s doubles and, assuming there was not a huge upset, allowing Edmund to play with the security of a point already on the board.
It did not pan out that way at yesterday’s draw but Murray believes Edmund, who played himself into pole position by winning a Challenger title on clay in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, can handle the situation.
Whoever was picked, the pressure would still have been overwhelmingly on Murray to win all his rubbers. Of the nine points Britain needed to win to reach the final for the first time since 1978, eight of them were won by the world No 2.
He said: “I’m happy to take as much pressure on my shoulders as is needed. I’ve been in that position a lot of times in my career. I think I will be able to deal with it okay.
“But I also believe in all of the players in our team.
“Everyone, when they’ve been asked to, has stepped up and performed extremely well in the Davis Cup. Kyle has a lot of weapons on the court. He has a lot of firepower out there. It’s not going to be an easy match for David. I’ve practised with Kyle the last few days. He’s playing extremely well.”
Edmund had been in line to make his bow in the semi-final against Australia, but suffered an ankle injury in training.
He will be the sixth player to make his debut in the final – Spain’s Feliciano Lopez was the last in 2003 – and history is against him. No debutant has ever won a live rubber, while the other five all ended up on the losing side.
Edmund will draw on the experience of his only victory in the main draw of a grand slam, at the French Open this year, when he won a five-setter against home hope Stephane Robert.
“It’s just exciting really,” said Edmund. “This is definitely going to be the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of – probably the biggest occasion. The experience I’ve had close to that is probably in Paris in my first round when I played a French guy in front of a loud French crowd.
“But this will definitely be louder, a lot more people watching. It’s a new experience for me. It’s something I’m going to have to learn as I go through the match.”
By picking Ward in his team, Smith has kept his options open should the tie go down to a deciding fifth rubber, where the Londoner’s extra experience could be crucial.
The Belgians stuck with the four men they named last week, but their captain Johan Van Herck selected Bemelmans ahead of the higher-ranked Steve Darcis for the singles. However, the suspicion is he is saving Darcis, who has a good record in Davis Cup, for doubles and a potentially decisive fifth rubber.
The man to miss out for Britain was doubles specialist Dominic Inglot, who has been in the team for all three previous ties this year but only played in the first one.