Tough breaks for SA in Davis Cup loss

8 April 2013

South Africa put up a brave fight, but minus the country’s top player and with the team’s number two suffering an injury, fell 3-1 to Poland in a Group One Europe/Africa Davis Cup tie played in Zielona Gora, Poland on the weekend.

Kevin Anderson was unavailable, Rik de Voest suffered lower back problems during the clash and Raven Klaasen fractured a thumb in practice, while a number of other replacements – Izak van der Merwe, Nikala Scholtz, Fritz Wolmarans and Wayne Montgomery – were ruled out for various reasons too.

South Africa had previously defeated Poland twice in the competition – 3-2 in both 1935 and 2003 – but with such obstacles it was little wonder that they went down this time against a strong Polish team.

Opening day

The opening day’s singles pitted Jerzy Janowicz, ranked 24th in the world, against Jean Anderson, ranked 758th. Andersen gave a good account of himself, but fell 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to the Polish star.

Rik de Voest, though, showed the kind of good form he has often produced in the Davis Cup when the world number 227 upset Lukasz Kubot, ranked 91st, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

With Klaasen, ranked 54th in the world doubles rankings, out of the tie, De Voest teamed up with Andersen to face Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in Saturday’s doubles. It was a closely contested match which the Poles edged 7-5, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.

‘Very tight’

Matkowski commented afterwards: “De Voest’s game did not surprise us at all. Andersen played really well. Most of his errors were forced. We had to pressure him to make a mistake. It was a very tight match. We are very happy to be through in three sets.”

It was a crucial clash and victory for Poland put the hosts on the verge of victory. A back problem for De Voest then handed them an even bigger advantage as South African captain De Jager was forced to play Ruan Roelofse, ranked 515th in the world, instead of De Voest in Sunday’s reverse singles.

Facing Janowicz, Roelofse surprised by winning the first set. After that, however, the Polish number one found his game and went on to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 victory. The win sealed the tie and the remaining singles match between Andersen Kubot unnecessary.

‘Tough’

“It was a tough match,” De Jager commented after the Poles had sealed victory. “Today, in the morning, Rik reported he had a really stiff lower back and couldn’t play. He is getting older.

“At first, before the tie, I thought he was going to play singles only. Then Raven got injured and given the score (1-1 after the first day), I knew that the doubles would be deciding and very important for us. So that’s why I decided Rik would play on Saturday.

“We saw Lukasz was struggling on Friday, so we knew that by winning the doubles we could stay in the game. But today Rik told me he would be able to play 100 percent only for a set and it could potentially turn into five sets in the end, so that’s why I replaced him with Ruan.

“He is still young. It was an opportunity for him to play and a very good experience.”

South Africa will next face Slovenia from 13 to 15 September in a first round playoff. The winner will take on Russia from 18 to 20 October.

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