31 January 2014
South African Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager sprang something of a surprise on Thursday when he named his four-man selection to face Monaco at the Irene Country Club in Pretoria from Friday to Sunday, naming Ruan Roelofse ahead of Izak van der Merwe.
The lanky Van der Merwe was the second highest ranked singles player available to De Jager, but he only recently returned to action after a long-term injury to a heel, which had required surgery in April 2013. The Davis Cup clash would have been his first competitive outing since then.
Veteran South African Davis Cup star, Rik De Voest will get South Africa’s weekend campaign under way against Monaco’s number two Romain Arneodo in a first-ever meeting between the pair.
It will be the 43rd time that 33 year old De Voest will step onto court in the green and gold, but the first time he will be playing in the Davis Cup at the Irene Country Club where he learnt to play tennis.
The draw for the first round Group Two Europe/Africa tie was made at the Club on Thursday and De Voest’s name was drawn for the first singles rubber by tie Referee Wael Abbas of Egypt.
“This is going to be a real special tie for me. Irene is where I grew up and on the same courts I played my first tennis,” De Voest said at the draw. “To now go out on Friday and open procedures will be really special for me and my parents and the community at large.
“Hopefully I will be giving South Africa that all important lead after the first rubber.”
The absence of Kevin Anderson has once again somewhat weakened the South African line-up, but captain John-Laffnie De Jager and his team remain upbeat about their chances on the weekend.
‘Best possible side’
“We have the best possible side experience-wise for this tie,” he said. “We all know that Kevin would add great value to our team, but with him not being available for Davis Cup we need to work with what we have, and I believe the team we have assembled for this weekend are the best for the job, are passionate about playing for their country, and will do us all proud.’
De Jager named NCAA College star Nikala Scholtz as his second singles player. Scholtz made his first Davis Cup appearance against Canada last year in Montreal, where he impressed.
He will feature in the second rubber on Friday against Monaco number one Benjamin Balleret, who is ranked 261st in the world.
“I am very excited to be playing for South Africa again,” said Scholtz. “I am truly honoured to play for my country. I feel confident about my game as I have played 10 matches in the last two weeks at college in the USA, and am ready to give of my best.”
Talking about his team selection, De Jager said of his opting for Roelofse over Van der Merwe: “I’ve came to the decision because we needed a player that could play singles and doubles in the event we have problems with Rik and or Nik.
“Izak made it clear that although he is striking the ball well he felt confident to play the doubles but not the singles. To gamble on Izak as part of the team is not in the best interests of our chances.
“Ruan has been playing well in recent months, and then at training this week he was looking good,” De Jager added. “That’s why I selected Ruan and I have confidence that he’ll do the business.”
As expected, recent Australian Open doubles finalist Raven Klaasen has been assigned to doubles duty and will partner Roelofse.
“I see this as an opportunity to nail down the tie in the doubles match on Saturday,” said Klaasen. “Hopefully by the time we play the doubles South Africa will be leading so that we can sew up the result before the start of Sunday’s reverse singles.”
The tie will be shown on live streaming at www.streamit360.tv
- 09:30 – opening ceremony
- 10:00 – Singles – Rik de Voest vs Romain Arneodo, followed by Nikala Scholtz vs Benjamin Balleret
- 12:00 – Doubles – Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse vs Guillaume Couillard and Thomas Oger
- 10:00 – Reverse singles – Rik de Voest v Benjamin Balleret, followed by Nikala Scholtz vs Romain Arneodo