Cape Town - Lithuania beat South Africa 3-2 in their Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group II second round tie at the Azuolynas Tennis Centre in Kaunas, Lithuania on Sunday.
Going into the final day the South African side trailed the hosts 1-2 after Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse kept the tie alive with a solid 6-1 6-1 6-3 doubles win on Saturday over Laurynas Grigelis and Lukas Mugevicius.
However with the visitors 2-0 down on Friday after Tucker Vorster and Lloyd Harris both lost their opening singles rubbers it was always going be a tall order for South Africa to claw back and win the remaining three rubbers to secure victory.
On Friday Vorster went down 7-6 (1) 3-6 3-6 2-6 to Lithuanian number one Laurynas Grigelis whilst Harris despite winning the opening set and having a double break advantage in the second set crashed out to Lukas Mugevicius (LTU) 6-3 6-7 (5) 0-6 4-6.
The hopes for South Africa rested on young 19 year old Lloyd Harris of Cape Town, the nominated number one player who had to beat Laurynas Grigelis to keep the boys in green and gold hopes alive.
But Harris failed to secure the victory against Grigelis who won 6-1 6-1 6-3
The victory by Grigelis gave the Lithuanians the all-important third point which secured them the tie and a chance to play-off against Bosnia/Herzegovina for promotion to the Group I in September.
Marcos Ondruska, the South African captain said that a combination of a lack of experience in Davis Cup competition and playing on clay worked against Harris. “Lloyd is a real talent with a great future but unfortunately he is a new member of Davis Cup and is not comfortable on clay so the odds were against him even though he is ranked somewhat higher than Grigelis on the world rankings.”
Tucker Vorster then salvaged some pride for South Africa when in the last rubber of the tie he beat Tadas Babalis, 6-3 6-2 in the dead rubber that was reduced to the best of three sets.
Ondruska said that he was however proud of how his team played. “They gave of their best in very difficult conditions away from home. The weather was awful and the balls played heavy on the red clay. We are not used to clay court play so obviously the Lithuanian team as hosts were going to prepare the tie in conditions suited to their games and it certainly worked in their favour.”
Ondruska added that not was all negative. “We will take a lot away from this loss and work on those elements going forward. I have a very talented and enthusiastic group of players that are proud to represent South Africa and do well.”
South African now remain in Euro/Africa Group II for 2017 courtesy to a 5-0 win over Luxembourg in round 1 earlier this year at the Irene Country Club outside Pretoria.