Andy Murray beats Ruben Bemelmans to get Great Britain level in Davis Cup final
Andy Murray levelled the score at 1-1 in the Davis Cup final with victory over Ruben Bemelmans in a feisty match after Kyle Edmund's debut ended in a heartbreaking defeat.
Belgium's banker was the first rubber between David Goffin and Edmund but, when the 20-year-old took the opening two sets, it looked like the 13,000 fans packed into Ghent's Flanders Expo were witnessing one of the great sporting debuts.
However, Goffin discovered his form just in time and Edmund wilted physically and mentally to go down 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0 in just his second five-set match. As is so often the case, it was therefore left to Murray to get Great Britain's first point on the board, and the world number two duly obliged with a 6-3 6-2 7-5 win over Bemelmans.
The suspicion was by playing 108th-ranked Bemelmans instead of their number two Steve Darcis, the Belgians had effectively sacrificed the second rubber in the hope it would pay off later in the tie.
For two sets the left-hander troubled Murray periodically, mostly with his liberal use of drop shots, but without ever really threatening to make a match of it.
The third set was a different story as the atmosphere ramped up again and Murray found himself in hot water with umpire Carlos Ramos. First he was warned for an obscenity and then in the fifth game a second warning saw him penalised a point.
Murray and Smith were furious and had a lengthy conversation with Ramos and then referee Soren Friemel, who was soon on court again to issue Belgium a team warning because their fans refused to be quiet during play. Murray lost concentration amid the hubbub and Bemelmans broke to lead 4-2 but was immediately pegged back.
The Scot then had to save a set point after double-faulting, letting out a huge roar as Bemelmans failed to return a second serve that must have caught the back of the line. And Bemelmans' brave effort came to an end not long after as Murray broke to love to lead 6-5 before clinching victory on his first match point.
The win made it nine out of nine for Murray in Davis Cup this year and he will look to make it 10 alongside his brother Jamie in the doubles on Saturday.
Tears earlier welled up in Edmund's eyes as his match ran away from him in the fifth set, and he said: "I started very well. Obviously not having played a Davis Cup match, I was nervous naturally. 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.
"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. I believed I could win. I knew I had the game to beat him and I was playing well enough. So that's probably why I was upset at the end.
"It's not a nice feeling losing from two sets to love up. You're playing for your country, you're playing for your team-mates. You feel like you've let them down."
Edmund settled what must have been significant nerves by saving two break points in a 12-minute opening game, and soon it was obvious just how much Goffin was feeling the pressure. Edmund's forehand is a considerable weapon and Goffin, despite a ranking of 16 compared to his opponent's 100, could find no answer to it.
Remarkably, the British number three won the first five games, and would have won the set to love had he not missed the baseline with a forehand by the smallest of margins. Goffin tested Edmund's nerve by winning three games in a row but the 20-year-old passed it with flying colours, clinching the set with an ace.
In the second, Goffin was a man cowed by the occasion, his arm as heavy as lead, but crucially he turned the momentum at the start of the third and did not look back.
Goffin, for whom this was a first win from two sets down, said: "Kyle played an unbelievable first two sets. He was really aggressive with his forehand. It was tough to manage it because I didn't know Kyle before the match, how he plays.
"From the beginning, I was a little bit tight also. I tried to stay calm, to manage it very well. At the end I'm really happy to win the first point. People expected me to win the match, and that's what I did."