Flanders: Belgium host Britain in the Davis Cup final in Ghent this weekend in a matchup no-one expected and an atmosphere no-one wants.
The picturesque Flanders city is just 55 kilometres (35 miles) from Brussels, still reeling from the fallout of the terrorist attacks on Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. The Belgian government has declared the highest level of terror alert in the capital city as the hunt for those responsible for the Paris atrocities continues.
Both teams, though, are in Ghent and saying that, despite all the fears and anxiety, the focus is fully on tennis and history-making. Britain are seeking their 10th Davis Cup win in all, but first since 1936 when Fred Perry ruled the roost. Belgium’s only previous appearance in the final came 111 years ago when they lost to what was then the British Isles.
The central figure in the Friday to Sunday clash at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo is undoubtedly British No 1 Andy Murray.
The Brit, who will finish the year ranked second in the world behind Novak Djokovic, is on a crash course to get himself adapted to playing on indoor clay after a week spent on a hardcourt in London for the World Tour Finals.
But the 28-year-old Scot, who is likely to team up again with brother Jamie in what could be a key doubles rubber on Saturday, said he was confident he would be up to scratch by Friday. “To win the biggest team competition in tennis, having beaten the other three Grand Slam nations, I think it would be a huge victory for everyone in the team,” he said. “It would be well-deserved, as well. It’s taken a lot of time and hard work from many of the players, many of the staff, coaches, physios, everyone. It’s taken like five years.”