World No. 2 Andy Murray will have a golden chance to Britain’s 79-year-long wait for a 10th Davis Cup title when he faces David Goffin of Belgium in Ghent on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Scot has already restored British tennis pride with his US Open triumph in 2012 — the first Grand Slam title for a British player since Fred Perry in 1936 — and his momentous Wimbledon victory the following year, again the first for a Brit since Perry in 1936.
He also became the first British tennis player to win an Olympics singles gold in 2012, but a Davis Cup clincher on Sunday, with Britain already 2-1 ahead, would have a special resonance given the unique nature of the team competition.
Murray has been something of a one-man show in the Davis Cup this year, taking full advantage of the absence of elite players Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
He has won all 10 rubbers he has played in – seven singles and three doubles – as Britain has powered past heavyweights United States, France and Australia en route to a surprise final against upstarts Belgium.
A win against Goffin in the first of Sunday’s reverse singles would make him just the third player — after John McEnroe and Mats Wilander — to win eight singles ties in a single calendar year since the Davis Cup World Group was started in 1981.
On paper, and despite the fact that Goffin will be playing on clay — his preferred surface — and in front of a mainly Belgium crowd in the Flanders Expo centre, Murray will start a strong favourite.
He has never lost a set to Goffin and, in their last meeting in the Paris Masters three weeks ago, he won in under an hour for the loss of just one game.
Still, Murray sounded a cautious note after he and brother Jamie had defeated Goffin and Steve Darcis in four sets in Saturday’s doubles to set up Sunday’s potentially title-clinching scenario.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself. I know how good a player Goffin is,” he said.
“You don’t get to be ranked 15 in the world in today’s game with the depth that there is if you’re not pretty good at the game.
“I feel pretty calm. I know there’s a long way to go.”
Murray has the added comfort in knowing that even if he loses, the British could still prevent Belgium for winning the Davis Cup for the first time in its 115-year history by taking what would be a decisive fifth rubber.
For the moment Ruben Bemelmans, who lost to Murray on Friday, is scheduled to take on Kyle Edmund, who lost to Goffin, in that match.
But there could be changes if the final is still alive with Darcis thought likely to play for the Belgians and possibly James Ward for Britain.
Murray can do away with any of the debate over those permutations by defeating Goffin.
The Belgians though said they still believed they could bounce back and pull off a shock win.
“It’s a difficult day tomorrow. But as a team we have to believe, we have to stand up, we have to fight,” said team captain Johan van Herck.
“Not a lot of people gave us a chance to win against Argentina (3-2) in the semis, and we did it. So now tomorrow there’s a huge task ahead of us.