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Britain and Belgium tied 1-1 after opening day in Davis Cup
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GHENT, Belgium (AP) — Andy Murray kept Britain in contention in the Davis Cup final when he beat Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in straight sets to leave the two nations level at 1-1 after the opening singles Friday.
Murray, ranked No. 2 in the world, made a smooth transition to clay and won 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 against his left-handed opponent, who is ranked No. 108.
Earlier, David Goffin rallied to beat Kyle Edmund 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, overcoming a two-set deficit for the first time in his career to put Belgium ahead.
“It’s pretty much what we expected,” Murray said of the result after day one.
Belgium is seeking its first Davis Cup title, while Britain has not won the team competition in 79 years.
Murray was briefly in trouble in the third set but he broke back with a passing return. He also had to save a set point after double-faulting in the 10th game and celebrated wildly. He won the match with a service winner that Bemelmans returned long. Murray was docked a point for a second warning in the third set for cursing loudly.
“I didn’t hear any of the warnings because it was very loud between points. I was surprised he (the umpire) could hear what I said,” Murray said with a smile. “But I don’t think the crowd crossed the line.”
Bemelmans played some delicate drop shots and other winners but his 33 unforced errors, more than twice as many as Murray’s, made the difference.
Edmund came close to making his Davis Cup debut a memorable one after rolling through the first two sets against the higher-ranked Belgian.
But Goffin stepped up his game as the 20-year-old Edmund started making mistakes.
Goffin is No. 16 in the world and had not lost a set in four previous Davis Cup matches this year in leading Belgium to the final. Edmund is ranked No. 100 and had not played in the competition until Friday.
“I was just trying to focus on trying to block out the atmosphere, the occasion, and just play tennis, which is something I do every day. I hit thousands and thousands of balls. It couldn’t have gone any better,” Edmund said. “The third set, he started to get on top of me. Then things started to fall away. In the fourth set I was struggling physically, and in the fifth set. It was just disappointing that my body couldn’t hold up the way I would have liked it to.”
The first game went to six deuces and Edmund saved two break points to win it in 12 minutes.
After that, he raced through the first two sets. Edmund finished the first with an ace and broke Goffin’s serve three times to win the second in 27 minutes as Goffin double-faulted on set point after doing the same at the end of fifth game.
Goffin began his comeback with a break of serve in the third game of the third set and broke again for a 4-1 lead.
“I was a little bit worried because Kyle was playing unbelievable. He just had nothing to lose. He played a wonderful match. But I knew I had a chance,” Goffin said. “I knew it’s always tough when you are young, when you’re playing your first match in Davis Cup, to play three sets like this. It’s always tough. That’s why I tried to stay calm and wait for a chance.”
The doubles are slated for Saturday, with the decisive reverse singles on Sunday.
After the Paris attacks and with Belgium on a heightened terrorist alert, security was stepped up at the event. Fans went through body searches and were not allowed to take bags into the Flanders Expo venue.
But inside, a party atmosphere prevailed and the 13,000-seat arena was full. A large section came from Britain, and many Scottish fans wore kilts.
Belgium’s King Philippe and his wife, Queen Mathilde, were in attendance.
The Belgians last reached the final in 1904, when they lost to Britain. Nine-time titlist Britain last played in the final in 1978.