Belgians are too good for a British side missing Murray

 

Britain's hopes of returning to the Davis Cup's elite World Group are on hold for another year. In the absence of Andy Murray and James Ward, Leon Smith's team were always likely to struggle to beat Belgium, who secured victory in their Europe/Africa Zone Group One tie in Glasgow yesterday when David Goffin beat Josh Goodall 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the first of the reverse singles.

After Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins had kept Britain alive with victory in the doubles on Saturday, home hopes were raised again when Belgium's leading player, Olivier Rochus, withdrew injured shortly before yesterday's fourth rubber. Goffin, however, proved an able deputy.

Goodall's commitment and nerve were never in doubt, but his 21-year-old opponent had a significantly better all-round game and used his speed around the court to good effect. The world No 112, ranked 141 places above Goodall, made early breaks in all three sets, with the Briton managing just one in the middle of the third.

While Belgium go through to a September play-off for a place in the World Group, Britain will not play again this year. They will compete in the same division in 2013, when Smith will hope a less busy schedule will enable Murray to make himself more available.

Since making his Davis Cup debut in 2005, Murray has missed seven out of 17 ties; over the same period Roger Federer has missed eight of Switzerland's 16 ties while Rafael Nadal has missed 12 of Spain's 22.

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