By Martyn Herman
GHENT, Belgium (Reuters) – Throwing in Kyle Edmund for his Davis Cup debut in this weekend’s final against Belgium in Ghent is a shrewd move that cranks up the pressure on the hosts, according to Britain’s former Davis Cup captain John Lloyd.
The 20-year-old world number 100 was given the nod by Britain’s captain Leon Smith, ahead of the more experienced James Ward, and will open the tie in the 13,000-seat Flanders Expo against Belgium’s top player David Goffin.
Goffin, ranked 16, should win comfortably, but Lloyd says Edmund has nothing to lose, especially knowing Britain’s number one Andy Murray is favourite to win both his singles.
“In an ideal situation you would want to blood him a little,” Lloyd, who was John McEnroe’s first ever Davis Cup singles victim in the 1978 final against the U.S. in California, told Reuters after Thursday’s draw at the Flanders Expo arena.
“But on the other hand Kyle’s playing great and going into a match that no one expects him to win.
“You could say it’s a gamble, but not really. Hopefully he’ll go there and open his shoulders up, just as if it’s the first round of Wimbledon against one of the top guys and you just go out and have fun and go out swinging.
“If he wins he’s virtually won the Davis Cup for Britain. It’s the sort of thing you dream about as a kid. It’s like coming on as a sub and scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final. If he beats Goffin he will grab all the headlines.
“And on the other side Goffin knows that if he loses to Kyle tomorrow, the match is over, simple as that,” he added.
With Andy Murray and older brother Jamie playing the Saturday doubles together, Smith also has Ward up his sleeve should things do down to Sunday’s fifth rubber, says Lloyd.
“You do have the option that, let’s say Kyle freezes tomorrow, and I don’t think that will happen, but if he did Leon has the option that if the match goes to 2-2 he could put Ward in, and James has been there and done it.”
Goffin has never faced Edmund before but Murray is predicting a tough match for the Belgian he beat 6-1 6-0 at the Paris Masters recently.
“Kyle has a lot of weapons on the court and a lot of firepower, it won’t be easy for David,” Murray, who plays world number 108 Ruben Bemelmans in Friday’s second singles, said. “I’ve practised a lot with Kyle and he’s playing very well.”
Lloyd said Edmund has the element of surprise on his side.
“Goffin is experienced but he’s not an Andy Murray, he’s not a top-tenner who stamps all over people,” he said.
“He’s going up against someone he probably doesn’t know much about although I’m sure they’ve done their homework.
“You are going up against a guy that is not ranked that high but moving up…they are more dangerous.
“You can’t feel them out, you know the guys in the top 80, you play them, you know what they do on big points, but Edmund is a kind of wildcard in a sense.”
And while Edmund will have to deal with 13,000 Belgium fans roaring their team to a first title, he can count on his team mates to pull for him.
“It’s going to be intimidating, you either embrace that or you don’t, hopefully Kyle will,” Lloyd said.
“But if he has any doubts he has the experience of the captain and the bench and it gives you the chance to re-boot at the changeovers. He will need that because when you’re on your own and things go bad you can panic and the tennis court, believe me, can be a lonely place.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)