Russia seize lead over SA
John-Laffnie de Jager (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The South African Davis Cup team were 2-0 down against Russia after the first day of their crucial Euro/Africa Davis Cup relegation play-off at the Olympic Stadium, in Moscow, on Friday.
Dean O'Brien, the South African number one, opened in the green and gold, and went down to his Russian opponent in the first rubber. Karen Khachanov, 17, beat O'Brien 7-5 6-1 6-3 to give Russia the first point.
In the second rubber Russia's Alex Bogomolov jun. beat South Africa's Japie de Klerk 6-7 (3) 6-0 6-4 6-1.
In the first match, Khachanov's serve was on target and troubled O'Brien throughout.
Both O'Brien and Khachanov exchanged six breaks of serve in the opening set, but the Russian grew stronger throughout the set. Khachanov used his big serve and reach to aggressively take the advantage and win the first set 7-5.
Khachanov then found his groove and dominated O'Brien in his debut Davis Cup match.
O'Brien said he felt as if he had some chances, but did not take advantage of them.
"As the match went on, I felt Karen really pressing and taking the ball early, which put me under a lot of pressure," O'Brien said after his rubber.
It was then the turn of Rookie de Klerk. De Klerk, ranked 1485 in the world, faced world number 80 Bogomolov, a seasoned professional regarded by many as one of the toughest opponents on the tour.
De Klerk silenced any critics with a dream start, finding the first break in the third game and playing aggressive baseline tennis to take the opening set 7-6 (3).
But then the Russian found his feet, and Bogomolov lived up to his reputation and won the next two sets in under an hour 6-0 6-4.
In the fourth set, Bogomolov broke early and raced to a 4-0 lead. De Klerk, troubled by a tight quad, called for a medical time out and South African team trainer Lizanne Marais was called to court.
After being treated and strapped, De Klerk returned to court, but with his quad troubling him.
Bogomolov showed his experience and class and closed out the rubber, winning in four sets in two hours 43 minutes.
On Saturday, the doubles rubber will be played at noon South African time.
The doubles line up named at the draw on Thursday is Konstantin Kravchuk/Andrey Kuznetsov (Rus) vs Raven Klaasen/Tucker Vorster (RSA).
South Africa will have to win the doubles rubber to keep the Tie alive going into Sunday's reverse singles.
The Davis Cup is being shown live by SuperSport.