ATP Tour

SA to face tricky Israelis in Davis Cup

2017-10-30 14:38
Dudi Sela (Getty Images)

Cape Town - A home tie, but potentially not an easy one.

This is the situation facing the South African Davis Cup team in February when they play Israel in their first match following promotion to the Euro-Africa Group One segment of the competition.

Israel, spearheaded by tricky, 65th world-ranked Dudi Sela, romped home to a clear-cut victory over Romania in a playoff encounter over the weekend to emerge as South Africa's opponents.

South African officials will, no doubt, have mixed feelings over this turn of events. On the one hand the restructured, go-ahead Tennis South Africa organisation will be able to stage a first genuine drawcard event in the country in almost five years, but with the knowledge that the Sela-inspired Israelis could be a tough nut to crack.

The gritty mettle of the evergreen, 32 year-old Sela is reflected by the fact that he overcame John Isner at Wimbledon this year after warding off 45 aces from the towering, 6ft 10in  American.

And, what is more, the canny Sela has scaled a career-high world ranking of 29th and proved a handful for some of the leading players in the game during a long and sustained career.

What is more, Israel's number one will be supported by a 20 year-old prodigy in Edan Leshem, who is considered the most exciting prospect produced in his country in the past decade having improved his world ranking astonishingly from 1 284th to 285th  in a matter of 18 months.

Against the Israelis TSA find themselves faced by two conundrums. Firstly in deciding where to play the tie and secondly in ensuring that top South African player Kevin Anderson ends his self-imposed, six-year exile from Davis Cup competition - as has been suggested could belatedly come to fruition next year.

With the world's 16th-ranked Anderson in harness against the Israelis, the scales would be tilted quite clearly in South Africa's direction. Without this year's US Open finalist, bookmakers might be offering even money on the tie.

As to the venue, the Irene Country Club on the outskirts of Pretoria has become something of a standard base for South African Davis Cup matches in recent years, while proving ideal for low-key encounters against opponents with little drawing power.

TSA, however, will now have to decide whether or not to move the venue to Johannesburg or Pretoria, with the Israelis likely to arouse a good deal of support from the Jewish community and the tie attracting a wider spectrum of interest generally - or remain in the scenic backwoods while attracting only the diehards.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  davis cup  |  dudi sela  |  kevin anderson  |  tennis
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