Where do Andy Murray's Davis Cup heroics rank in British sporting history?
In-depth: After victory over Australia over the weekend, Great Britain are in the Davis Cup final for the first time since 1978. They will face Belgium, knowing that a win will be their first success in the tournament since before the Second World War. That opportunity alone is down to one man: Andy Murray.
WHAT THEY RECKON
After beating Bernard Tomic to secure Britain’s place in November’s final, Andy Murray extended his singles record in Davis Cup events to 25 wins in 27 matches.
That record is crucial, considering Murray has essentially been relied upon to win both of his singles matches on the way through the world group this year – and sometimes help win the doubles rubber as well, if the other GB singles player does not like delivering the goods himself.
That has put an immense strain on the Scot, mentally and physically, but up to now he has weathered it brilliantly.
Now, he has the chance to emulate Fred Perry once again – after becoming the first British winner of Wimbledon since the legendary Perry, he can win the Davis Cup for the first time since Stockport's finest led a squad to the title in 1936.
"This would be right up there with winning Wimbledon," former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski said. "Andy's had to drag this team through and win three matches in the last two ties against France and Australia. It's an incredible accomplishment for one person to do it.
" "This is in a different league. It's like the 1966 World Cup for England. If we win this, it will go down in sporting folklore. It's an incredible feat.""
WOULD IT REALLY BE THAT GREAT?
Well, it certainly would be pretty impressive. As Rusedski notes, Britain are pretty much a one-man band these days - and yet have managed to get further than they ever managed even when Rusedski and Tim Henman (in theory a formidable tandem, although not necessarily for all surfaces) were both available for selection.
The path to the final has also not been easy, with Britain beating the United States (James Ward’s win over John Isner proving crucial), last year’s finalists France (Murray, aided by brother Jamie in the doubles, getting three points) and the formidable Australians to make it to the last two.
The hard work goes beyond that, however, with even being in the world group a culmination of a few years of effort – Britain rising to the all-important top tier only after a sustained effort, from Murray and others, to elevate them to that position by going to all corners to beat minnows and sleeping giants alike.
Now they are reaping the rewards.
Andy Murray (R) and Jamie Murray celebrate after winning their matchReuters
Of course, there are mitigating circumstances: Serbia and Spain, with Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, would appear to have more impressive squads than Britain but, having both won the event recently, their star names have treated it with no more than cursory attention this time around.
The same can be said of Switzerland, the holders of the competition. With Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer to rely on they should be nigh-on unbeatable but, having ascended the mountaintop once, they sent out Michael Lammer, Henri Laaksonen and Adrien Bossel (average singles rank: 517) in the first round this time around ... and promptly lost to Belgium.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but perhaps this is the fate that eventually awaits Britain. The Davis Cup is a title every top player wants to add to his CV over the course of his career, but not necessarily more than once. Murray is clearly willing (even eager) to put in maximum effort to achieve that but, if or when he does so, it should be no surprise if we do not see him quite so available to the cause in future years.
He still has plenty he wants to achieve in the individual events, of course, and at 28 he is getting to the point where he will have to make decisions about managing his calendar and his commitments in order to do so.
THE PRESS REACTION
WHAT MURRAY HIMSELF SAID
" Winning for your country and your team-mates means such a lot. The crowd were unbelievable from the first ball to the last.
I didn't feel great the whole weekend to be honest. I've been struggling with my back, but I just tried to disguise it. I probably thought about it more before the match today than I did when I was on the court. Once I was out there I just tried to play each point and fight as hard as I could on his service games, get as many balls back into play as I could and make it difficult for him there.
Then I concentrated on serving well and I don’t think he was reading them too well either. So I tried to concentrate on hitting the right spot on the serve. I wasn’t really thinking about history or anything like that."
WHAT ABOUT THE FINAL?
It is a measure of Murray’s dedication to the Davis Cup this year that he could miss the ATP World Tour Finals if, as expected, Belgium choose to host the final on a clay court in Ghent.
Rather than switch from the hard courts of the ATP season-ender in London at short notice, Murray would likely eschew the event to prepare exclusively on the red stuff - keeping his body as fresh as possible in the process.
"The O2 would obviously be a question mark for me if we were playing on the clay," Murray told BBC Radio 5 live. "I would go and train and prepare on the clay to get ready for the final.”
Belgium's Steve Darcis (L) celebrates with Davis Goffin (R) after winning the Davis cup semi-final match against Argentina's Federico Delbonis at the Forest National Arena on September 20, 2015AFP
That is itself a risky strategy, however, considering Kyle Edmund qualified and then reached the second round of the French Open earlier this year.
Murray grew up on clay courts, so should be formidable on a surface that perplexes many, but they will nevertheless sap his energy even more than hard courts – especially if he is roped into playing the doubles as well.
It is worth noting that Jamie Murray is not the same threat on clay courts either – while he and regular doubles partner John Peers reached the final at Wimbledon and the US Open, they were dumped out in the third round at Roland Garros. With the doubles rubber potentially crucial in deciding the tie, that is another key factor.
The problem for Belgium, of course, is they lack a player of the requisite quality to beat Murray. David Goffin, the current world No. 15, is an emerging talent but has a poor record against the Scot (even if he is yet to lose a Davis Cup singles match this year in four attempts), while Steve Darcis may have his work cut out beating whoever Britain’s second singles player is.
Nevertheless they have not been in this position for 111 years - so will be every bit as fired up as their opponents ... with the benefit of a home crowd to roar them on.
So Great Britain’s task is probably not quite as easy as some home fans may be expecting, but they should enter the final as narrow favourites.
Winning the Davis Cup would certainly be an historic achievement for Murray, although it probably does not match either his Wimbledon win or that 1966 World Cup triumph in the wider sporting pecking order. Put that claim down to Rusedski getting a touch carried away, but he was probably just eager to ensure fans grasp just how heroic Murray has been for the cause.
The effort required to get Britain to this stage has been almost superhuman, and there is still one match to go that might require even greater sacrifice.
If Britain win – and it remains a sizeable if – Murray will be the first and last reason why. He may never compete again in the event with anything approaching the same commitment, but his achievement will live very long in the memory.