17 September 2013
South Africa lost out to Slovenia for a place in the Davis Cup Euro-Africa Group 1 for 2014 when they went down 4-1 in Ljubljana on Sunday. They will have one more chance to retain their Group 1 place later this year.
The hosts surprised by not naming their number one player, Grega Zemlja, ranked 74th in the world, in their singles line up, but South Africa were without their top player, world number 21 Kevin Anderson, who had declared himself unavailable, and Izak van der Merwe, out through a long-term injury.
Slovenia’s coach Blaz Trupej instead opted for 22-year-old Blaz Rola, ranked outside the top 200 in the world, and Blaz Kavcic, ranked 105th to play the opening singles on the clay courts. Facing them were Rik de Voest, ranked 162nd, and Ruan Roelofse, ranked 524th.
Trupej’s selections quickly repaid his faith as Rola comfortably outplayed the higher ranked De Voest 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, and Kavcic saw off Roelofse 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 to fire the hosts into a useful lead after the first day of competition. Another win would seal victory for the Slovenians.
That was duly secured in the doubles, with Rola and Kavcic teaming up to down Raven Klaasen and Nikala Scholtz 7-5, 6-1, 7-6.
“It was a tough match,” said Klaasen afterwards. “We were up early a break in the opening set, but when they broke back they played a good stretch until the end of the second set. Then Nikala and I turned things around the third set.”
‘We got outplayed’
South African Captain John Laffnie De Jager commented: “It’s very disappointing that we lost this tie, but we got outplayed by a better team. Well done to Slovenia.”
With the result already decided, Slovenian coach Trupej opted to replace Kavcic with Janez Semrajc for the reverse singles. Still the Eastern Europeans kept winning, with Semrajc defeating De Voest 6-2, 6-4.
South African captain John-Laffnie De Jager chose Nikala Scholtz to play the final match against Rola, who had been so instrumental in Slovenia’s win. The contest lasted only five games, however, before Rola withdrew with an injury while leading 3-2, which gave Scholtz the victory.
Slovenia, nonetheless, triumphed 4-1.
‘A tall order’
South African captain De Jager said: “We always knew that playing Slovenia away in Slovenia was going to be a tall order. Despite us being as best prepared as we could be, the Slovenian team made the very most of their home tie advantage and really proved to be the better team this weekend.
“I would like to congratulate Slovenia on their emphatic win.
“We will now have to regroup and focus on the all-important tie next month against Russia. Playing Russia away in Russia will be rough, but once again we will do our very best to take on the challenge with everything we have.”
The showdown between South Africa and Russia will be a promotion/relegation tie. The winner of the clash, to be played from 18 to 20 October, will remain in Group 1, while the loser will be relegated to Group 2.