Davis Cup: British tennis must cash in to find next Murray
Andy Murray and his teammates chase Britain's first Davis Cup for 79 years amid tight security in Belgium
Britain's Davis Cup final against Belgium will go ahead as planned this weekend, despite the terror alerts in Europe, the International Tennis Federation has confirmed. The British squad, led by Andy Murray, has now departed for Ghent, just 35 miles from the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek that has become the focus of the country's anti-terror operation.
The last time Britain won the trophy was in 1936 and the team have not made the final since 1978. Around 1,000 British fans are expected to brave the security fears and travel to the Flanders Expo centre, where the final will take place.
The venue is a "soulless warehouse on the edge of an industrial estate, with a ceiling so low that it must only barely meet the ITF's standards", says Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph. "But this huge building is sure to come to life once the 13,000 fans arrive on Friday for the first day of the match, which is expected to pit Murray against Steve Darcis and [Kyle] Edmund against Belgium's best player, the world No 16 David Goffin."
The security situation is not the only point of tension ahead of the match, after former Davis Cup team captain David Lloyd criticised Murray for not doing enough to promote tennis in Britain. That prompted Murray to respond on social media, describing Lloyd as "bitter" on Instagram.
The accusation has "clearly infuriated" Murray, says Barry Flatman in The Times, and he is not alone in believing Lloyd has been "unjust to a player who has been the driving force behind Britain's resurgence in the Davis Cup".
Jumping to Murray's defence, Tim Henman said of the Scot: "He's won Wimbledon, the US Open, Olympic gold. There are others that need to be responsible for taking advantage of the interest he creates in the game. But if you ask me, I think Murray is doing all right."
It's up to the Lawn Tennis Association to capitalise on the surge of interest created by Murray and his teammates, says Matt Dickinson, also in the Times. But he notes that fewer people are playing tennis, with numbers down from one million six years ago to 700,000 today.
"Are these the best or worst of times for British tennis? Perhaps both, depending on how hard you look," he says.
"A wave of national pride will wash over Andy Murray and his teammates if Britain beat Belgium," explains Dickinson. "But – and there had to be a significant 'but' — the flipside is that tennis needs that sort of surge.
"It is not just about declining numbers but demographics; there are fewer young players and a lot of old ones. A country that craves more top-class tennis talent has to find it from a shrinking, ageing pool."
Andy Murray adopts Blitz spirit for Davis Cup in Belgium
The Paris terror attacks have prompted the cancellation of several sporting events, but Andy Murray has insisted that the events of recent days will not affect his preparations for the Davis Cup final in Belgium at the end of the month.
The match is to be played in Ghent, just 35 miles from the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, from where the Paris atrocity is believed to have been planned and, as The Times reports, "heavily armed Belgian police officers have carried out dawn raids to round up terrorism suspects". But that has not deterred Murray, who is this week in action at the World ATP Tour finals
"I don't want to live my life in fear each time I step onto a tennis court," he said. "I think everybody right now is concerned about things... But I do think the best thing that we can do is to live our normal lives, not change too much, because then the terrorists are the ones that are winning."
That philosophy is, according to the Daily Telegraph, Murray's "own formulation of what previous generations might have described as the spirit of the Blitz". And the paper notes that Britain has not won the David Cup since the Second World War.
"Watertight security" has been promised for the event, adds the paper, and it is hoped the fans "will be able to enjoy the match as a positive statement of civic pride – and perhaps a timely one for the hosts at a time of national introspection".
Meanwhile Great Britain captain, Leon Smith, must concentrate on selecting his team. Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans both won challenger events at the weekend while James Ward won in India last month. Meanwhile recent British convert Aljaz Bedene is expected to find out that he has been granted permission to play for Britain, despite having represented Slovakia in the past.