YORKSHIREMAN Kyle Edmund’s Davis Cup debut turned from a dream to a nightmare as David Goffin fought back from two sets down for the first time in his career to win the opening point of the final for Belgium in Ghent.
Great Britain captain Leon Smith chose Beverley’s Edmund ahead of experienced campaigner James Ward, and it looked an inspired choice when the 20-year-old blasted his way to a two-set lead.
But this was the rubber Belgium simply could not afford to lose and Goffin, ranked 84 places above his opponent at 16, turned things around to win 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0.
Smith plumped for Edmund, who was looking to become the first debutant to win a live rubber in a final, after watching him win a second-tier Challenger title on clay in Buenos Aires two weeks ago.
Unlike many of his compatriots, Edmund is perfectly happy on the red stuff, but playing for his country, not to mention the size of the occasion, was all new.
Tears welled up in Edmund’s eyes as his match ran away from him in the fifth set, and he said: “I started very well.
“Obviously not having played a Davis Cup match, I was nervous, naturally. I was just trying to focus on trying to block out the atmosphere, the occasion, and just play tennis, which is something I do every day.
“The third set he started to get on top of me. Then things started to fall away. In the fourth set I was struggling physically, and in the fifth set. It was just disappointing that my body couldn’t hold up the way I would have liked it to.
“I believed I could win. I knew I had the game to beat him and I was playing well enough. So that’s probably why I was upset at the end.
“It’s not a nice feeling losing from two sets to love up. You’re playing for your country, you’re playing for your team-mates. You feel like you’ve let them down.”
Edmund settled what must have been significant nerves by saving two break points in a 12-minute opening game, and soon it was obvious just how much Goffin was feeling the pressure.
Edmund’s forehand is a considerable weapon and Goffin, despite a ranking of 16 compared to his opponent’s 100, could find no answer to it.
The British No 3 won the first five games, and would have won the set to love had he not missed the baseline with a forehand by the smallest of margins.
Goffin tested Edmund’s nerve by winning three games in a row, but the 20-year-old passed it with flying colours, clinching the set with an ace. In the second, Goffin was a man cowed by the occasion, his arm as heavy as lead, but crucially he turned the momentum at the start of the third and did not look back.
Goffin, for whom this was a first win from two sets down, said: “Kyle played an unbelievable first two sets. At the end I’m really happy to win the first point. People expected me to win the match, and that’s what I did.”