Davis Cup Final 2015: A Fans’ View, Days 1 & 2

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So being lucky enough to have secured tickets to two days of the Davis Cup Final between Great Britain and Belgium, I was going to see history one way or another. Britain had not been in the final since 1978 and Belgium since 1904 (where, incidentally, they lost to the Brits). The last time Britain had won the Davis Cup was all the way back in 1936 when Fred Perry led the team to victory against the Australians. British fans had been through mixed emotions on the way to the final–the impressive joy of the Round 1 win of the USA, with James Ward stunning John Isner in a thrilling five set match, the worry of the quarterfinal when all players were falling over on the grass and Andy Murray hurting himself there. The surprise of the inclusion of Dan Evans to see if he could replicate his win over Bernard Tomic for the semifinal, and the naming of a Davis Cup rookie for the final. Leon Smith had never seen us wrong since taking over in 2010, the hope was that would continue in the final.

Davis Cup Final 2015: A Fans’ View, Days 1 & 2

Unfortunately a distinct lack of holiday from work meant that I was going to miss the first day so I would be resorting to my usual back up, live-scoring, which is ever quite the same. Tracking the first day, I have to admit that I was very impressed with the scoreline I was seeing. Kyle Edmund, playing in his first ever rubber was giving the Belgian #1 David Goffin a very good match. Taking the first two sets Edmund was doing well, and Goffin not so good (which of course was brilliant news for us Brits). Unfortunately the experience of Goffin in five set matches came to the fore (this was only the young Brits second five set match) and the Belgian came back to take the match (boo!).

Next up was our star, our #1 and World #2 Andy Murray to play Belgian #2 Ruben Bemelmans for the tie. This was quite a match at least looking at the scores as they were appearing on my ap. Murray came up trumps again and leveled the tie by dispatching the Belgian in straight sets, although they were fairly close. So, that over, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed off for an early night. I would be leaving at 3:30 am the next day to make my way to yell the boys on.

In the build up to the tie there were the tragic events in Paris, and with some of those involved coming from Belgium and more specifically Brussels, the city went into high alert. This meant that the metro and other parts of the city went into lockdown. This proved an issue for some fans and they pulled out due to safety concerns–which was understandable. For myself, however, I chose to still make the journey. With security measures in place Ghent was still staging the event, the ITF were keeping an eye on happenings in Brussels and assuring everyone that the event was still on. That was all I needed to know. I was going. If I could get out of Brussels I would be fine. Timing was good as Brussels reduced the alert level a few days before meaning the transport was running again.

Leaving my house on the Saturday morning at 03:30 I headed to Heathrow Airport for my early-morning flight to Brussels. Arriving to check in at just after 05:00 I checked in, found the gate and waited for boarding. After a short hop to Brussels, I then found my way to the train and onboard to Ghent. A quick look around and purchase of Belgian chocolate later, I arrived at the hotel. A couple of hours later, and having changed into my Davis Cup attire, I was ready to join the other Brits for the doubles.
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Taking my place in the crowd there was nothing much to see at this point. This would be because there was a very large curtain around the court. After a few rounds of watching images of the routes to the final of both teams the countdown started. As it hit zero the curtain dropped and the teams were standing on the court, and we went wild with cheering. There was the issue of trying to out cheer the Belgians and we gave it a pretty good go. Andy Murray was joined on court by his older brother Jamie Murray, whilst the Belgians fielded Goffin and Steve Darcis.

Goffin & Darcis were going to have to win this match to give the Belgians any chance going into the final day. Every point they scored the Belgian crowd roared. We Brits were still trying to out cheer them, and with the assistance of the Sterling uni Barmy Army songs, we were certainly giving it some. The Murray brothers took the first set and we were up and cheering again. The Belgians sensed what we had too, Jamie was nervous – we all knew how much this meant to Andy. With the Belgians picking up on this too, they started to target the older brother to force mistakes enabling the home team to take the second set. We were not going to let our lads down even with this minor blip, raising our volume even more we were determind to get them over the line. Andy was talking a lot to Jamie, reassuring him that everything would be OK, and to just keep on going. The brothers were working well together and we were making noise to encourage them the best we could.

With the brothers getting set three, we erupted in raucous noise, one more set to go in the crucial doubles rubber to be ahead in the tie. The Murrays got ahead in the set four and it was time for Jamie to serve for the rubber. Trying to encourage him as he had struggled on serve during this match, my group started chanting his name (well it worked at Queens for the QF), “Jamie, Jamie” the chant went up, the Belgians were not making this easy by still targetting him. We got louder, at least we tried to “Jamie, Jamie” we chanted again and again, in an attempt to be heard above the Belgians. We can’t claim it worked, but Jamie served out the game, and the match to give us the lead in the tie. It was very fitting that the older brother served out the match after being so nervous.

As we left the arena a few of the group decided to hang out together in the fan zone in the Expo Centre. On the way to meet up with them, I found myself being High fived by Belgians saying “great match”. Our small group were together and we decided to break into a bit of a sing song that is used for the doubles when the brothers team up. The Belgians close by started joining in, and even videoed it. Several Belgians also asked to have their photographs taken with me, I can only think that it was down to all the Union Jacks on my outfit. The security situation meant that we were not allowed bags in the arena, so as I refused to pay eur 7 for some chips (fries for American readers) a larger group headed off into Ghent to celebrate the day and look forward to the big one tomorrow.

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