On his Davis Cup by BNP Paribas singles debut, 21-year-old David Goffin was the hero for Belgium as he secured victory for his country over Great Britain in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I second round tie in Glasgow.
The world No. 112 turned in an impressive performance to beat Josh Goodall 64 64 64 and put his country through to September’s World Group play-offs. Ruben Bemelmans then beat Dan Evans 64 64 to claim a 4-1 away victory.
Goffin came to Glasgow in excellent form, currently at a career-high ranking after winning last week’s Guadeloupe Challenger, and after playing well in Saturday’s doubles rubber, he was fielded for Sunday’s opening singles instead of Olivier Rochus, who had to pull-out due to injury.
He said: “It was an amazing experience for my first time in Davis Cup. It gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. I hope our next tie will be at home and I will try to do my best to be in the team.”
It was always going to be a tough ask for a British side without world No. 4 Andy Murray, considering that all four Belgian players were higher-ranked. British captain Leon Smith – whose five-match unbeaten run since taking over from John Lloyd in 2010 ended – was proud of his players’ efforts, though, and can’t wait to return in Group I next year.
He said: “I love it and we all love it. All the support staff and the players, it’s something that everyone really looks forward to and you just give everything into it. It’s important that the competition stays and there is still a Davis cup, because there is nothing like that team event to bring everyone together.”
South Africa joined Belgium in the World Group play-offs as they beat Slovenia 4-1 in Johannesburg, Izak van der Merwe securing the win with a 76(3) 64 64 victory against Blaz Kavcic. Ruan Roelofse then completed the tie with a 46 63 76(2) win over the unranked Nik Razborsek, making his debut at the age of 18.
The home side had the advantage after winning the doubles, and in what was a crucial fourth rubber, Van der Merwe and Kavcic both started cautiously in windy conditions. Breaks were exchanged before the South African claimed the first set in a tiebreak, and used his booming serve to great effect as he went on to clinch the tie.
Van der Merwe said: “This was one of my greatest wins. Playing for your country must rate right up there and winning an important tie for your country is just simply marvellous.”
Without the services of Kevin Anderson and Rik de Voest, it was a hugely satisfying victory for South Africa captain John-Laffnie de Jager. He said: “Winning this tie in all my five years as captain must rate as my best win.
“Most people wrote us off before this tie without us having our top two world ranked players available, but as I have said over and over again, Davis Cup is a different animal and anything can happen especially when you are playing at home.”
Netherlands secured a 5-0 whitewash over Romania in the final day dead rubbers in Amsterdam, Robin Haase beating Petru-Alexandru Luncanu 75 62, and Thomas Schoorel beating 18-year-old Davis Cup debutant Darious Florni Bragusi 62 62.
Dutch captain Jan Siemerink said: “Throughout the weekend it was hard for my team to keep the concentration up, which partly had to do with the quality of the opponents. Now we have plenty of time to improve for September, in order to have a chance to qualify for the World Group.”
Romania – who were without several of their top players due to a boycott – now go on to play Finland in September, with the losers facing Denmark in a relegation play-off in October.
Portugal gained some pride back as they won both dead rubbers against Israel in Ramat Hasharon to reduce the deficit to 3-2. Joao Sousa beat doubles expert Andy Ram – who has not had a singles ranking since March 2007 – 75 60, and Frederico Gil beat Amir Weintraub in a keenly contested encounter 36 63 76(3).
The Israel team can now look forward to the draw for the World Group play-offs, which will be made in London this Wednesday 11 April at 11:00 (BST). Portugal, meanwhile, will play Slovak Republic in a relegation play-off in September.
Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 08/04/2012
David Goffin (BEL) - 08/04/2012