Davis Cup final: Murrays take doubles rubber to give GB lead over Belgium
Great Britain are one win from a first Davis Cup title in 79 years after Andy and Jamie Murray's doubles victory against Belgium
When it comes to doubles players, Great Britain was in the happy position, ahead of its Davis Cup final against Belgium, in having both talent and options for the vital third rubber of the tournament.
Dominic Inglot, for example, reached three doubles finals this year, winning in Winston Salem, and also reached the semis of the US Open, the Paris Masters, Dubai, Rotterdam and Basel, and the quarter of the Australian Open.
Yet he was, when it came to this final showdown, forced to give way to one of the strongest pairings in the Davis Cup this year.
These two are not even regular doubles partners, but they are brothers: Andy and Jamie Murray.
For the No2 singles player in the world and the No7 doubles player, both of whom played at the World Tour Finals no more than a fortnight ago, joined forces to win thrilling, essential matches in both the quarter-finals and semis on their way to this final showdown.
While younger brother Andy has ploughed a furrow to Grand Slam, Masters and Olympic singles glory, Jamie has been ploughing a parallel furrow to the top of the doubles game—as proficient, quick and incisive a net player as you will find, and with a useful left-handed serve. That, too, is always a valuable weapon in a doubles team, the melding of a rightie with a leftie.
This year, aside from Davis Cup duties, the elder Murray reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open with partner John Peers, plus 500s in Basel, Vienna, Barcelona and Rotterdam. And all that tactical experience has no doubt helped forge the match-winning combo with his brother.
In the Belgians, they would take on No16 David Goffin and No84 ranked Steve Darcis, who had only ever played together four times, and three of those were in Challengers. The nimble Goffin was unbeaten in Davis Cup singles in his last seven rubbers but he had played only once in doubles, back in the 2012 tie—against GB—and though the doubles rubber was lost, Belgium won the tie.
Darcis had more than played his part in singles for Belgium, too, winning four rubbers, but had lost in the only doubles match he played: He was also sidelined during the last month with an injury, and still had a heavily taped forearm.
So the Murrays were favoured to win this third rubber, and sure enough, Andy opened with a love hold, but Goffin showed his prodigious touch and footwork in some lively plays to keep the Belgians on level terms. Darcis produced a piece of magic in the ninth game, a drop-lob combo, to earn break point but some big serving from Andy held, and the brothers combined at the net to break for 6-4.
Now the Belgians really began to gel, with both making some fine overheads and angled passes to keep the Murrays on their toes. It earned them a quick break against Jamie’s serve, and Goffin shone in the overhead department to hold for 3-1.
The Britons could not take advantage of a break chance against Darcis in the sixth, and the 31-year-old Belgian man compensated with a love hold to take the set, 6-4.
The stats showed that the Belgians were really taking the attack to the Britons, 28 winners to 18 already, and Goffin continued to strike overheads with confidence. He and Darcis broke in the third game, but the Murrays hit straight back, and after one of many disruptions from an increasingly pounding arena, the Britons broke again, 4-2, only for this high-octane atmosphere to take its toll on both sides. Goffin picked off a tough return to break once more, but Darcis, the weaker serving link throughout, gave up his serve to love and, with two hours on the clock, Andy served out the set, 6-3.
Now both teams took a break from court: the emotions were high, like the volume from all the supporting fans. Even the PA system continued to thump with music as the players readied for the fourth set.
In the early goings, it was again the two top-20 players who shone, Goffin picking off a couple of fine interceptions, Murray hoisting a running lob to perfection. But Darcis again lost his serve, aided by a double fault. The Britons came perilously close to a break back, with Jamie defending seven break points, but an inspired volley winner from Andy and the break was consolidated, 3-1.
For good measure, they broke Darcis once more to serve out set and match, 6-2, just 10 minutes short of three hours.
That takes the tally of GB rubbers won by the Murrays to 10 from 11: James Ward won the other, and such was that rubber, beating John Isner in 15-13 in the final set in the first round this year, that he may still be chosen over Kyle Edmund for the fifth rubber tomorrow—if it comes to a decider.
Andy Murray is playing down his chances against Goffin in what may well be the title-winning rubber, even though he has beaten the Belgian in straight sets in both their previous matches, and for the loss of only one game in Paris last month.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself. I know how good a player Goffin is. You don’t get to be ranked 16 in the world in today’s game with the depth that there is if you’re not pretty good at the game.”
And he had a good view today of some very fine tennis indeed from the slight and light-footed Belgian—and in all departments of his game.
But it is hard to see the passionate and determined younger Scot, for all his “I feel pretty calm” after this doubles match, not rising to the opportunity to make more history.
In GB’s only previous final against Belgium, 111 years ago, it was another pair of brothers who won three rubbers. The younger, Laurie Doherty, a Grand Slam and Olympic champion, played and won doubles with Reggie and both his singles rubbers.
Don’t be surprised if Andy Murray does just the same.