Can Belgium wipe out a 111-year-old disappointment?

Can Belgium wipe out a 111-year-old disappointment?

That is the burning question the nation’s tennis fans are asking after the national side won through to the final of the Davis Cup– the most famous team trophy in tennis–for the first time since 1904. In the final, to be held on home soil in November at the 13,000-capacity indoor clay courts in Flanders Expo in Ghent, Belgium will take on Britain, which itself has not been in a final for decades.

In the dramatic semi-final Belgium beat Argentina. On the way to the final, tennis ace Steve Darcis and colleagues also downed defending champions Switzerland and Canada.

It was hailed as a “historic feat” and triggered a wealth of reactions on social media, including from the former Flemish tennis diva Kim Clijsters who tweeted, “This is why tennis is the greatest sport in the world.”

Their Belgian heroics set up a mouth-watering clash with brothers Andy and Jamie Murray and colleagues from 27 to 29 November. Andy Murray sealed Britain’s return to the final for the first time in 37 years with victory against Australia in Glasgow.

A win over Belgium in the final would give Britain their 10th title, but their first since 1936. For Belgium this upcoming title shot is a chance to get revenge. The last Davis Cup final that Belgium played in 1904 was against the British Isles…. and resulted in a 5-0 thumping.

Overall, the Brits have won the ‘World Cup of tennis’ nine times, just behind the US and Australia on the overall leader board.

Belgium has never won a Davis Cup; their best performance on record was that 1904 defeat to Britain.

With excitement mounting ahead of the Belgian v Britain clash, here are a few facts about Belgian tennis.

* Belgium has had much more success on the women’s side of the sport. Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters both reached world number one and won 11 Grand Slam singles titles between them, as well as teaming up to clinch Belgium’s solitary Fed Cup triumph in 2001.

* Belgium’s post-War best in the Davis Cup was a semi-final appearance in 1999. After beating the Czech Republic and Switzerland, the Belgians came up against France in Pau, but their team, which included Xavier Malisse and Christophe Rochus, was beaten 4-1.

* Belgium’s most successful Davis Cup player was Jacques Brichant, who played in 42 ties for his country between 1943 and 1965, winning 71 matches.

* Belgium currently boasts three male players in the world’s top 100 – David Goffin (15), Steve Darcis (59) and Ruben Bemelmans (85). However Bemelmans, at 192, is the only Belgian player ranked inside the world’s top 200 in doubles.

* The British have two inside the top 100 – Andy Murray (3) and Aljaz Bedene (55, not eligible for selection). While Kyle Edmund (101), James Ward (142), Brydan Klein (172) and Liam Broady (196) are among the top 200.

* No Belgian man has ever won a singles Grand Slam title. Xavier Malisse reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2002, where he lost to eventual runner-up David Nalbandian. Two years later, Malisse and compatriot Olivier Rochus won the French Open doubles title.

* Great Britain and Belgium have met 11 times in the competition, with Britain winning seven of them. Their last meeting was in 2012 in Glasgow, when Steve Darcis and Olivier Rochus led Belgium to a 4-1 win over the then
Murray-less Britons.

* At present there are no ATP Tour events held in Belgium.

By Martin Banks

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