Belgium v Great Britain: Routes to the 2015 Davis Cup final
Last Updated: 29/11/15 12:55pm
With the Davis Cup Final fast approaching, we look back at how Great Britain and Belgium fought their way to Ghent.
Neither side had to play an away tie en route to the 2015 Davis Cup final, Great Britain beating USA, France and Australia on home soil, while Belgium managed to land four successive home ties. So far they have seen off defending champions Switzerland, Canada and Argentina.
Here's how they did it...
First round, March
Great Britain beat USA 3-2, indoor hard, Emirates Arena, Glasgow
It was a case of deja vu for Great Britain when they began their campaign back in March. For the second year running, Leon Smith's team were drawn against the USA in round one and for the second year running James Ward turned out to be the hero of the tie. In 2014 he had upset Sam Querrey to put his side 2-0 up on day one after a routine Andy Murray success. A year on and this time his scalp was even bigger, not just in physical terms either, with the 6ft 10in John Isner beaten in a five-set epic. With the Americans winning another marathon rubber the following day in the doubles, Ward's win turned out to be the crucial point with Murray wrapping up victory by defeating Isner on the Sunday. Quizzed about GB's chances in the competition after his side's defeat, American captain Jim Courier hinted at what lay ahead. "We've seen Boris Becker take a German team to a championship when he was the best singles player by a pretty wide margin," he said. "When you have Andy Murray you have a chance. It's a pretty good luxury."
Belgium beat Switzerland 3-2, indoor hard, Liege
Switzerland's previous tie had been the 2014 final but when they arrived in Liege less than four months later neither Roger Federer nor Stan Wawrinka was in a much-weakened team. As a result, the Belgians started as heavy favourites but they had problems of their own with star man David Goffin carrying an injury which ruled him out of the opening day's singles. Thanks to two singles wins for Henri Laaksonen, the Swiss were still alive heading into the final rubber but Goffin stepped up to the plate and delivered in style, a straight-sets win sending his team through to the last eight.
Great Britain beat France 3-1, outdoor grass, Queen's Club, London
Ward's shock win in Glasgow had spared Andy Murray doubles duty in Glasgow but he had no such luxury at Queen's Club. Just a week after a heavy defeat to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals, the British No 1 had to play three matches in as many days - something that has proved the downfall of many Davis Cup side's over the years; just ask Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. However, a clearly jaded Murray responded in style, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the opening day before teaming up with brother Jamie to claim Saturday's doubles. All appeared to be going to plan, but then came Sunday's singles when Murray cut an exhausted figure, literally sinking to his knees as he fell a set and a break down to Gilles Simon. However, summoning up his deepest fighting spirit, Murray snatched the second set on a tie-break and never looked back. GB were in the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1981.
Belgium beat Canada 5-0, outdoor clay, Ostend
Belgium had struck lucky in avoiding Federer and Wawrinka in round one. And they must have begun to wonder if this was to be their year when Canada turned up in Ostend with a similarly weakened team. There was no Milos Raonic, no Vasek Pospisil and subsequently no chance. In their absence, Belgium wrapped up victory in just two days, all four members of the team contributing to their points tally with Steve Darcis and Goffin winning singles rubbers before Kim Coppejans and Ruben Bemelmans teamed up to clinch victory in the doubles.
Great Britain beat Australia 3-2, indoor hard, Emirates Arena, Glasgow
If the Murray show hadn't already been seen in Great Britain's quarter-final, this was certainly the real thing. Playing in front of an adoring Scottish crowd, Murray put his early US Open defeat to one side to produce some of his best tennis, dismantling Thanasi Kokkinakis on day one. As most had predicted, the tie boiled down to the doubles which saw Murray link up with brother Jamie again. A high-quality clash against Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth went the distance but the Brits prevailed 6-4 in the fifth. Any hopes the Aussies had about Murray wearing himself out proved to be in vain. Murray gave Bernard Tomic little chance in the first of Sunday's reverse singles. Job done.
Belgium beat Argentina 3-2, indoor hard, Brussels
As demanded by the partisan crowd, Goffin delivered two straight-sets wins for the Belgians but it was Steve Darcis who emerged as the hero with victory in the deciding encounter, sending his side into their first Davis Cup final for 111 years. The hosts had trailed 2-1 heading into the final day before Goffin levelled affairs and sent Darcis onto court to face Federico Delbonis. In what was always a tight contest, Darcis edged ahead by winning the third set and history beckoned when he served for the match at 5-4. Two match points came and went before Delbonis forced a tie-break. The Belgian boat was rocking but Darcis steeled himself to write himself into the history books.