Belgium to host Davis Cup final with Great Britain on clay in Ghent
Great Britain and Andy Murray will need to overcome Belgium on clay at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo in the Belgian city of Ghent in this year's Davis Cup final, it has been confirmed.
The tie will be played on the weekend of November 27-29 with GB appearing in their first final of the sport's biggest team event since 1978.
The Flanders Expo is made up of eight halls with hall one having a capacity of 13,000.
“Ghent will fully support the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final," said Tennis Vlaanderen President Dirk de Maeseneer.
"As the third biggest city in Belgium, it has a lot of experience in hosting top international events, such as the Tour of Flanders, the arrival of the Tour de France in 2007 and the Gymnastics World Championships in 2001 and 2013."
The decision by Belgium as final hosts to stage the match on clay comes as no surprise to many commentators who predicted such a move after world number three Andy Murray won two singles matches and helped brother Jamie win a doubles match to overcome Australia in the semi-finals in Glasgow last weekend.
But Murray's biggest challenge appears to be justifying his decision whether or not to play the ATP Tour finals.
The World Tour finals concludes on November 22 with the Davis Cup finals beginning on the next Friday.
"The O2 would obviously be a question mark for me if we were playing on the clay," Murray told the BBC.
"I would go and train and prepare on the clay to get ready for the final."
Roger Federer withdrew from last year's ATP Tour final with Novak Djokovic complaining of a bad back before helping Switzerland overcome France in the Davis Cup final a week later, but only after he lost to Gael Monfils in straight sets on the clay of Lille.
"For me to play - if I was to reach the final - five in a row and then take a couple of days off, it would mean only playing for two days on the clay before the Davis Cup final starts and that wouldn't be enough for me," said Murray.
"I need more time on the clay to let my back get used to it."
Murray risks a heavy fine if he cannot come up with a reason for participating in a mandatory event on the tour.
Is clay a problem?
The Scotsman is seen to be most vulnerable on clay, but looked to be vastly improved on the surface over the summer when he won back-to-back tournaments in Munich and Madrid which included a final win over nine-times French Open champion Rafael Nadal before his home crowd.
He lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open at Roland Garros, but while the Belgians will view it as their best chance of upsetting Murray, the Scotsman will start as a heavy favourite to win his singles matches in the tie.
David Goffin is the highest ranked Belgian player in the world at 15, Steve Darcis comes next at 59 and Ruben Bemelmans is number 85.
Murray's brother Jamie is ranked the seventh best doubles player in the world having competed in Wimbledon and the US Open finals over the past few months. Bemelmans is the top ranked Belgian player in doubles at 192.
A fit Andy and Jamie Murray would be strongly fancied to overcome any of their opponents in singles and doubles.
But Andy will also be aware that any success will rest heavily on his shoulders with his team-mates all outside of the world's top 100 players Kyle Edmund (101), James Ward (142), Brydan Klein (172) and Liam Broady (196) will hardly disturb the home side.
Dan Evans lost both his singles matches in the semi-finals, and is ranked at 258 in the world.
Route to the final
- 1st Round: beat Switzerland (last year's champions were minus Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka) 3-2
- Quarter-finals: beat Canada (minus Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil) 5-0
- Semi-finals: beat Argentina 3-2
- 1st Round: beat USA 3-2
- Quarter-finals: beat France 3-1
- Semi-finals: beat Australia 3-2