Altitude a worry for Croatia
Johannesburg - The Croatian Davis Cup team is struggling to adjust to high altitude conditions ahead of their tennis tie against hosts South Africa in Potchefstroom, starting on Friday.
The Croatian team arrived at the venue on Saturday, aiming to adjust to fast, hard-court surfaces.
The visiting players and captain said on Monday they were still having difficulties.
"The balls are flying around a little", said team captain Goran Prpic.
"Since Saturday we have been battling to get used to conditions."
Marin Cilic, the visitors' No 1 and ranked 28th on the ATP singles rankings, said adjusting to conditions would be a challenge.
"The court is playing pretty quick compared to what I am used to on the ATP World Tour," he said.
"Altitude is a factor, but we decided to come in early on Saturday to give us the best chance of adjusting to altitude. We have targeted three days to get adjusted."
"Even the tension in our rackets has to be adjusted and we are having to string our rackets at three, four or five kgs higher than usual so it’s going to take us a couple of days to get used to these conditions," he said.
The Croat No 2 Ivan Dodig, the 33rd ATP singles ranked, also said things were a little faster than he was used to.
"The courts playing faster, the balls are flying around faster and bouncing high. It’s very different but I am getting used to it.
"It’s been a real challenge these past two days adjusting. It's dry and hot and today [Monday] windy, so it's quite a challenge but nothing we can’t overcome," said Dodig, who famously defeated Rafael Nadal earlier this season.
While the visiting team boasts players higher in the singles rankings, they would have hoped to field an even stronger team.
Ivan Ljubicic, who has been unavailable for international duty since July last year, and Ivo Karlovic, who could not turn out for personal reasons, were not included in Croatia's team.
"We are without Ivo Karlovic our No 1, which obviously is not ideal, but we have a good team regardless that can deliver," said Prpic.
With the perceived "weakened" team, much of the focus will be on South Africa's No 1, Kevin Anderson.
"Kevin Anderson is a very respected player and South Africa are lucky to have him in the team. His presence will make a big difference to South Africa’s chances," said Prpic.
The big-serving South African is in good form ahead of the tie, and almost single-handedly won the previous tie against the Netherlands.
"The court is playing the same as it was against Holland and I am very happy about that. It really suits my game," said Anderson.
"The court is new and gritty and the ball is bouncing livelier in the warmer weather which is very suited to my game. It’s probably my favourite hard-court surface here in Potch."
Anderson was cautious about speculating who would be the favourites for the tie, and played down his team's chances.
"Davis Cup is an incredible animal and one is never ever sure when you have one. Croatia are a good team with a incredible tennis pedigree so we have the utmost respect for Croatia."
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