By Martyn Herman
GHENT, Belgium (Reuters) – Andy Murray revelled in the football-like atmosphere of the Davis Cup final on Friday, after pulling Britain level at 1-1 despite picking up a penalty point for an obscenity.
The 28-year-old, together with Britain’s captain Leon Smith became embroiled in some lively exchanges with the umpire Carlos Ramos as the raucous home fans in the 13,000-seat arena did their best to knock him off course against Ruben Bemelmans.
Belgium captain Johan van Herck also had words.
Murray was docked a point at 2-2 in the third set of his 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory and roared his defiance at the Belgian fans when he saved a set point at 4-5, having trailed 2-4.
Occasionally the home fans pushed the limits of fair play but Murray refused to criticise the crowd who made the opening day of the final such a colourful spectacle.
“I think that’s kind of normal in Davis Cup, to be honest. I don’t feel like they crossed the line,” the world number two said. “I’m experienced enough now to not allow it to bother me, and try to use it to my advantage as much as I can.”
Smith, hoping to guide Britain to their first title since 1936, has been heavily indebted to Murray’s brilliance since taking over as captain with the Scot contributing 15 of the side’s 19 points since he returned to the squad in 2013.
He was full of praise for his talisman again after he cancelled out David Goffin’s earlier five-set victory over British debutant Kyle Edmund.
“Thought Andy was, yet again, very good in handling the environment, the crowd, and an opponent who clearly has nothing to lose that was swinging away,” Smith said.
“It’s obviously a good situation for them when they’ve already gone one up, they can put out a player and just say, ‘Go for it’. That’s what happened. But Andy still won in straight sets.”
Van Herck admitted he was very worried when world number 16 Goffin was being blown off court by Edmund before recovering to win 3-6 1-6 6-2 6-1 6-0.
Edmund, who had been preferred to James Ward, looked set to become the first player in Davis Cup history to debut in a final and win a live rubber, but it was not to be.
“I was dominating the first two sets. He couldn’t get near me. He turned that, and that’s something I need to learn from,” Edmund told reporters. “It fell away at the end very quickly.
“I’m obviously disappointed. You’re playing for your team mates. You feel like you’ve let them down.”
Murray will face Goffin in Sunday’s first reverse singles, but before that he and brother Jamie will play the doubles, although Van Herck was giving little away about his pairing.
“I don’t even know,” he said when asked who would be facing the Murrays.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)