Andy Murray has sealed Britain’s first Davis Cup title for 79 years by defeating Belgium’s David Goffin in the final.
Fittingly for a player who has almost single-handedly guided his country to the title this year, the indefatigable Murray ended Goffin’s inspired resistance with a moment of sheer brilliance few could conjure to complete a 6-3 7-5 6-3 victory.
It gave Britain a winning 3-1 lead and started a party that hundreds of visiting fans decked out in union flags and Scottish saltires will keep going long into the night in medieval Ghent.
Murray, who put in a triple-shift over the weekend and looked exhausted at the end of a tense three-hour contest, collapsed on to the claycourt before being swamped by his team mates, including brother Jamie, and captain Leon Smith.
Sportingly he clambered to his feet to console Goffin who had gallantly clung on to the hope of keeping alive Belgium’s chances of winning the title for the first time.
Murray then saluted the ‘Barmy Army’, who roared his every winner over a weekend that rubber-stamped his place in the chronicles of British sporting greatness, if any had doubted it after he ended a 77-year wait for a men’s champion at Wimbledon in 2013, a year after winning the Olympics and US Open.
“I probably haven’t been as emotional as that after a match that I’ve won,” Murray told reporters later as dance music still reverberated around the vast warehouse-like arena on the edge of the city.
“It’s incredible that we managed to win this competition. I didn’t know that would ever be possible. It’s great.”
World number two Murray, whose return to the team in 2013 accelerated Britain’s rapid rise from the depths that begun when Smith took charge in 2010, has won 11 live rubbers in this year’s run, matching Ivan Ljubicic’s total for Croatia in 2005.
He has won all eight singles he played while teaming up three times with brother Jamie for crucial doubles wins, one of which came on Saturday to put Britain 2-1 ahead.
“Really impressive from @andy_murray. One of the best Davis Cup years in history,” former US Open champion and world number one Andy Roddick said on Twitter.
The small Scottish town of Dunblane, where the Murray brothers grew up, could justifiably claim its name should be inscribed on the trophy.
Fellow Scot Smith, who took over when Britain were on the verge of relegation to the Davis Cup’s fourth division, paid tribute to the whole team but described Murray’s mammoth contribution to the country’s first title since 1936 as “one of the best achievements of all time.”
“It’s incredible for all of us to watch how he’s managed to win that many rubbers, that many wins,” he said.
“Just now what’s important is what’s been achieved. It’s monumental.”
Murray is the first player since American Pete Sampras in 1995 to win three live rubbers in a final.
There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome on Sunday with Belgium trailing 2-1 and needing to win both reverse singles. But Goffin, roared on by a soccer-style crowd inside the claustrophobic arena, forced Murray to play his best tennis.
Goffin squandered a break point at 2-2 in the opening set and Murray then pounced, scorching a backhand winner off a weak second serve to take a lead he never relinquished.
There was no chance of Goffin fading though. He played some sensational tennis to stay with Murray in the second set but a tired forehand into the net in 11th game gave Murray a break and the Scot struck a stupendous forehand winner to seal the set.
Murray wobbled briefly when he dropped serve early in the third set but he responded to move 5-3 ahead before providing the most spectacular of climaxes to a memorable year.