Tough tie for SA Davis Cup skipper

11 October 2013

South African Davis Cup captain John Laffnie De Jager has endured a nightmare ahead of his team’s forthcoming clash with Russia, with six of his first-choice players unavailable for the tie.

The teams meet on the indoor hard courts of the Tennis Palace of the Army Central Sport Club in Moscow from 25 to 27 October.

It will be the third meeting between the two countries. In their first meeting in 1995, Russia won 4-1 in Moscow. Two years later, South Africa recorded a 3-1 win in Durban. This time, though, there is arguably more at stake than in either of the previous two World Group match-ups.

‘A must-win situation’

Both teams are fighting for their survival in Europe/Africa Zone Group I, with the loser of the being relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2014. De Jager has termed the tie against Russia a “must-win situation”.

“Playing away from home is always tough and without our top six players the task is even tougher,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“My team is a very young and inexperienced team, but it is an opportunity for the guys to play at a higher level and prove to us that they are able to compete at that level.”

Unavailable

South Africa’s top ranked player Kevin Anderson has made himself unavailable for the tie, as has Fritz Wolmarans. Davis Cup stalwart Rik De Voest is unavailable due to the birth of his first child over that period, while Izak Van Der Merwe, Jean Anderson and Ruan Roelofse are all injured. Nikala Scholtz can’t make the trip to Moscow due to college commitments in the USA.

De Jager has selected a team comprised of Raven Klaasen, Dean O’Brien, Tucker Vorster and Japie De Klerk.

Klaasen is enjoying his best season on the ATP World Tour as a doubles player and has won three titles. “Raven has played some of his best tennis the last three weeks with two ATP Tour doubles titles, and was a finalist last week in the Mons Challenger,” said De Jager.

Soweto Open quarter-finalist

O’Brien was chosen for the Squad to play Slovenia in the relegation tie last month, which Slovenia won 4-1, but did not make the final four nominated players. Regardless, O’Brien, who reached the quarter-finals of the Soweto Open in April as a wild-card, has impressed De Jager.

“I was very impressed with Dean during the Slovenia tie and the guy is a hard worker, good team player and has an impressive game,” he said.

Tucker Vorster and Japie De Klerk will be making their Davis Cup debuts. Vorster is presently playing on the international Futures circuit, while De Klerk is playing US college tennis for Tulsa.

‘Knocking at the door’

“Tucker has been knocking at the Davis Cup door for a while and has a big game. Japie is still a youngster at college but made the semi-finals of the NCAA Championships this year, which in itself is impressive,” De Jager said.

In the two previous ties between Russia and South Africa, the home side has won, so the Eastern Europeans will hope that trend continues when the sides face off in Moscow.

The Russian team has not yet been named, but the country has five players ranked in the world’s top 100, namely Mikhail Youzhny (21); Dmitry Tursunov (40); Nikolay Davydenko (46); Alex Bogomolov Jr.(70) and Evgeny Donskoy (90).

SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM

(Current world rankings)

Raven Klaasen (45 doubles); Dean O’Brien (569 singles, 563 doubles); Tucker Vorster (616 singles, 540 doubles), Japie De Klerk (1474 singles)

SAinfo reporter