Andy Murray's magic ends 79 year wait for Davis Cup glory
Andy Murray ended Britain's 79-year wait to reclaim the Davis Cup here yesterday in the way that only he can. David Goffin had played one of the matches of his life in a heroic attempt to keep Belgium's hopes of winning the final alive, but on Murray's second match point the home team's No 1 could only watch in despair and wonderment as the Scot ended the contest with a superb backhand lob. It landed just inside the baseline to secure his own 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory and his team's 3-1 triumph.
In his moment of glory Murray fell to the floor and lay on his back in the red clay before being engulfed by his team mates. Nevertheless, it was typical of the world No 2's generous spirit that he quickly broke free and ran across the court to embrace Goffin and shake hands with the Belgian captain and the umpire.
It was only then that the 28-year-old Scot let the celebrations begin. The British team raised their talisman aloft on their shoulders before he went over to acknowledge the 1,300 British fans who had helped to create such a raucous atmosphere here in the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo arena. A number of those supporters will travel home today treasuring their booty after Murray threw his wristbands, spare shirts and even his rackets into the crowd.
It was not long before Murray's tears flowed at the end of one of the most remarkable campaigns in Davis Cup history. This may be a team event, but in the 115-year history of the competition it could be argued that no country has ever owed so much to one man.
Murray won all eight of his singles rubbers this year as well as three doubles in tandem with his brother Jamie. All of them were "live" rubbers and victory was secured in all four of Britain's ties when Murray won his second singles rubber against his opposing No 1. Of the 12 rubbers Britain won in the competition, James Ward's first-round victory over John Isner was the only one in which Murray junior was not on court.
Britain's first triumph in this competition since Fred Perry and Bunny Austin secured victory over Australian in 1936 comes just five years after the team had to win a play-off against Turkey to avoid relegation to the Davis Cup's fourth tier alongside the likes of Andorra and San Marino.
That match at Eastbourne was Leon Smith's first, the Scot having succeeded John Lloyd as captain in the wake of the most embarrassing defeat in British history away to Lithuania. In the ensuing years they won two promotions and with this victory have gone to the top of the International Tennis Federation's world rankings.
Britain had not reached a final for 37 years and had been 33-1 outsiders at the start of this season's campaign, but ever since the summer Murray had made it his mission to win this title.
Most of the game's greats have claimed at least one Davis Cup and by winning here Murray emulated the feats of his fellow members of the "Big Four", Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He is also one of only four men - alongside Laurence Doherty, Andre Agassi and Nadal - who have won the Davis Cup as well as singles titles at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Murray's performance here in the final typified his contribution to the team throughout this year. After Kyle Edmund lost the opening rubber to Goffin on Friday, Murray steadied the ship by beating Ruben Bemelmans in the second singles, joined forces with his brother to win the doubles on Saturday and then delivered the coup de grace yesterday afternoon in his 104th match of what has been an extraordinary year.
Goffin pushed Murray all the way in a high-quality encounter that lasted just six minutes short of three hours. At 5ft 11 and less than 11 stone the world No 16 is one of the least imposing players physically, but even after playing 12 sets in three days he was giving his all to the very end.
The 24-year-old is a superb ball-striker and showed here, even in defeat, that he has the mental strength to match his great talent.
In Murray, however, Goffin was facing an opponent who remains focused in even the most stressful of situations and has a remarkable capacity to bounce back from adversity.
After dropping his serve for the only time in the match early in the third set Murray expressed his frustration in a way that earned a warning for a verbal obscenity.
However, the Scot recomposed himself in time to break back immediately thanks to a thumping backhand return, a lob after an exquisite drop shot, a superb cross-court pass and an attack which forced Goffin into a forehand error.
Murray served superbly, particularly on the rare occasions when he was in trouble. In the first set the Scot saved the only break point he had to defend with a service winner and in the following game he broke Goffin to love with a thrilling sequence of attacking shots.
In the second set Murray again saved the only break point against him - in the second game - with an unreturned serve. In the following game Goffin had to fight ferociously to hold on to his serve, but with the home crowd getting behind him the Belgian No 1 matched Murray blow for blow until the Scot's relentless pressure finally told with a break in the 11th game.
When Goffin went 15-40 down on his serve in the opening game of the third set it seemed that the end might be swift, but the world No 16 fought back and indeed went 2-0 up. Murray, however, was not to be denied. The unflinching Scot won six of the last seven games before securing Britain's triumph with that wonderful piece of creativity on the last point.
"I gave everything," Goffin said afterwards. "After a match like this, I have no regrets. After a match and a tie like this, we can all be proud. Even if we lost the tie today, I think we played an unbelievable season in Davis Cup.
"I think Andy and the British team deserved the trophy."