ATP Tour

Slovenia will test SA's Davis Cup mettle

2017-02-08 13:02
Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse (Reg Caldecott)

Cape Town - It is a compact, scenic and largely mountainous European country of little more than two million citizens, with soccer rather than tennis its sporting passion.

But for South African tennis to take the major and much-needed step up the international ladder via the Davis Cup this year, Slovenia’s workmanlike squad looms as the major obstacle in the way of elusive promotion from the modest Euro-Africa Group Two segment of the competition.

Following on the largely predictable 4-1 victory over a modest and injury-depleted Estonia at the Irene Country Club this past weekend, South Africa will now face Slovenia in a far more revealing second round in two months’ time.

And, while the successful team in this tie will still need to overcome the winners of a match-up between Denmark and Norway  in the final, third round qualifier for a Euro-Africa Group One position in 2018, neither Denmark or Norway appear to possess the mettle of the tough Slovenians.

Indeed Slovenia can boast substantially superior world ranking players than their likely South African counterparts in singles, with Grega Zemlja and Blaz Kavcic ranked 149th and 169th in the world against Lloyd Harris’s 285th position and Nik Scholtz's 514th place.

To offset this to some degree, South Africa appear to have a much stronger hand in the doubles, particularly if the world's 12th-ranked Raven Klaasen again makes himself available for the Slovenia tie.

And then there is the matter of home court advantage for South Africa at what is also likely to be at a familiar high altitude venue.

Emphasising the significance of this fact is that when South Africa and Slovenia last faced each other on a South African court it was South Africa who finished 4-1 winners, but with the scoreline reversed when the countries met in Slovenia.

It's a toss-up what will happen this time, with the key player, perhaps, South Africa's burgeoning 19-year-old Harris, who is the best prospect South Africa has produced since Kevin Anderson almost a decade ago, but whose immediate mettle and long-term future will become clearer from how he shapes up against the likes of Zemlja and Kavcic.    

Read more on:    davis cup  |  sy lerman  |  tennis
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