29 October 2013
Russia outplayed South Africa 5-0 in their Davis Cup clash in Moscow over the weekend, thus relegating South Africa to Euro/Africa Group II for the 2014 competition.
The hosts’ captain, Shamil Tarpischev, opted to start Karen Khachanov in the first singles match. The 17-year-old came into the tie fresh off a win over world number 28 Janko Tipsarevic on his way to a place in the quarterfinals of the the Kremlin Cup.
Khachanov responded well to the responsibility handed to him by defeating Dean O’Brien 7-5 6-1 6-3 to put the Russians ahead.
World number 80 Alex Bogomolov junior then overcame Japie de Klerk, who was playing his first Davis Cup tie, in four sets, winning 6-7 (3) 6-0 6-4 6-1.
That result meant the Russians would clinch the tie with victory in the doubles on Saturday. The match was closely contested, but the home team nonetheless came away with a straight sets victory, with Konstantin Kravchuk and Andrey Kuznetsov beating Raven Klaasen and Tucker Vorster 6-3 7-6 (4) 6-2.
The win guaranteed Russia a place in Euro/Africa Group I next year. South Africa, meanwhile, dropped to Group II. Later, they were seeded and drawn to face Monaco at home from 31 January to 2 February 2014.
The two sides have played each other twice previously, in 1967 and 2008, with South Africa winning 5-0 in 1967 and 3-2 in 2008. Both ties were played in Monte Carlo.
With the outcome of the tie in Moscow already decided, Russian captain Tarpischev changed his singles players for the last two matches on Sunday. World number 138 Andrey Kuznetsov replaced Alex Bogomolov junior, while Konstantin Kravchuk took over from Karen Khachanov.
With matches reduced to the best of three sets, Kuznetsov cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over O’Brien, while Kravchuk, who starred in Russia’s doubles win, took on De Klerk. That match also took little time to complete as the South African retired at 4- 1 down as a result of a knee and quad strain injury he suffered in his first singles match on Friday.
Afterwards, O’Brien described the loss as “brutal”.
“I just couldn’t get myself to play well, no matter how hard I tried,” he admitted. “I just feel that Japie, Tucker and I need more experience at this level to give ourselves any possible chance.”
South African Captain, John-Laffnie de Jager declared himself very disappointed with the result, even though, for various reasons, he had been unable to select any of South Africa’s six highest ranked singles players.
“It was an eye opener for my young guys, who have never played tennis at this level. Dean, Japie and Tucker will have to step up their physical ability if they want to compete at this level. They are just not used to five sets of top class tennis at this level. We will have to keep track of the young guys and make sure their coaches do the right things with them and insist they stay in good shape,” he said.
‘Our guys have potential’
Despite the loss, De Jager said he was still positive about the future of the South African team. “We started in Group III, now we played in Group I. I think our guys have potential,” he explained.
“We knew this tie would be a challenge for us. We are upset we lost and have dropped to Group II. Our team did not have any experience in playing at this level. The Russian team was stronger and deserved this win,” he concluded.