Before their first round match in the World Group Great Britain were 33/1 to win the Davis Cup. Ahead of the final tie against Belgium Andy Murray and friends are 1/3 favourites to win the most prestigious prize in men’s team tennis. It helps that you can call on the second best player in the world to play in as many as three rubbers. The final is being played indoors on red clay in Ghent. The format is two singles next Friday, a doubles match the following day and reverse singles on the Sunday.
The Davis Cup brings together all the tennis playing nations in the men’s game. Teams are divided into geographical sections who aspire to qualify for the World Group. The 16 best teams play in a knockout format over the best of five matches, four singles and one doubles contest. The objective is to win three rubbers over the course of three days. Murray could win the final almost by himself as he may play in three matches. It would be folly not to maximise his ability against players well behind him in the world rankings.
The competition began in 1900 and was initially a challenge match between Great Britain and the United States. The entry had grown to 125 countries for this year’s renewal. The US are the most successful side in the event having won 32 Davis Cups and been runners-up 29 times. Britain have won the Cup nine times but not since 1936 but lost in the final to the States in 1978. As hosts Belgium choose the surface and clay will play to their strengths. An indoor arena seems to create a more partisan atmosphere but the Belgians have never been known for an intimidating nature.
This week Scotland’s best tennis player and arguably most successful sportsman ever was playing but not quite competing in the ATP Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London. His priority now is clearly winning the Davis Cup with Great Britain and his efforts in the Tour finals have been well below his usual high standards.
Murray had beaten David Ferrer in London, lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal and was eliminated after losing to Stan Wawrinka.
Murray will not have Alijaz Bedene as an ally in the Davis Cup final. The governing body has delayed that player’s appeal against being classed as ineligible to play for Great Britain in the Davis Cup. Bedene represented Slovenia three times in the competition before being granted UK citizenship in March. Davis Cup rules do not allow a player to compete for a second country. The basis of the appeal is that Bedene applied for a British passport before the relevant rule change. The hearing will now take place next March so Bedene must miss the Davis Cup final.
The British team is now made up of Andy and Jamie Murray, Kyle Edmund and Dominic Inglot. The higher ranked Murray can play two singles and team up with his brother in the doubles on the middle day of competition. While Andy had a disappointing US Open his sibling lost in the final of the men’s doubles. Based on world rankings their country can go all the way and win this year’s Davis Cup.