By Martyn Herman
Britain’s Andy Murray levelled the Davis Cup final at 1-1 with a comfortable defeat of Ruben Bemelmans after David Goffin had escaped from two sets down to give Belgium the lead at the Flanders Expo on Friday.
The 28-year-old world number two Murray, who has almost single-handedly put Britain on the brink of their first title since 1936, duly delivered another point, beating 108th-ranked Bemelmans 6-3 6-2 7-5 on the indoor clay court.
His win left the tie poised at 1-1 ahead of Saturday’s doubles when he will partner brother Jamie, although Britain would already be virtually home and dry had debutant Kyle Edmund finished off world number 16 Goffin.
The opening singles of the tie, which was a “must-win” rubber for Belgium as they try to land their first title, was turning into a humiliation for Goffin when he trailed the world number 100 by two sets.
However, roared on by the majority of the 13,000 crowd packed into an arena built inside a charmless warehouse on the edge of medieval Ghent, the 24-year-old hit back from two sets down for the first time to win 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0.
The final began with a 12-minute game in which Goffin wasted two break points, shanking one forehand into the roof girders, then saw him completely overwhelmed for more than an hour by a free-swinging 20-year-old with a thunderbolt forehand.
Goffin finally recovered his senses to put a tiring Edmund in his place, but it was a mighty scare.
“The pressure was more on my shoulders because we needed this point against Kyle,” Goffin told reporters.
“I was a little bit worried because Kyle was playing unbelievable. He just had nothing to lose.
“Kyle was really heavy with every forehand. It was tough to manage but I stayed calm and waited for my chance.”
With Murray enjoying such a magnificent unbeaten Davis Cup record this year, having a hand in eight of Britain’s nine points won over three ties, Belgium have no margin for error.
Defeat for Goffin would have left Belgium’s dreams in tatters and the pressure seemed to freeze the 24-year-old as his game disintegrated in the face of Edmund’s withering power.
Edmund was in complete control for more than an hour and looked set to become the first debutant to win a live rubber in the Davis Cup final when he took the second set in 25 minutes with a run of six successive games.
A stunned Goffin finally got a foothold when he broke the Edmund serve to open a 3-1 lead in the third set and the momentum quickly swung his way.
With the spring back in legs that seemed set in concrete earlier, and his shoulders released, Goffin began to feed off the energy of the 13,000 crowd and Edmund wilted.
After levelling the match, Goffin knocked off the last six games in quick time.
Murray’s only worrying moments came in the third set when he received a penalty point for an audible obscenity before slipping 4-2 behind.
Bemelmans had a set point on the Murray serve at 5-4, only to hit a forehand return long, and a fired-up Murray quickly snuffed out the danger, wrapping up a straight-sets win before turning his attention to Saturday’s doubles.