Johannesburg - He may live at sea level in Chicago, but South African No 1 Kevin Anderson believes he will still hold an advantage over the visiting Croatian team at the high altitude venue in Potchefstroom for next week’s Davis Cup World Group playoff.
Anderson said on Thursday he had no trouble acclimatising before he led SA to a 3-1 win over the Netherlands in a Euro/Africa Group One tie in Potchefstroom in July.
"Getting used to the air is the big thing, with the altitude," Anderson said shortly after arriving in his home country.
"The last time we played here I felt really good from the Monday [four days before the tie], so because I grew up in Joburg, I think I acclimatise quite quickly."
Croatia’s non-playing captain, Goran Prpic, said on Wednesday his team would be better off in South Africa, away from their demanding Croatian supporters, but Anderson said the hosts would nonetheless hold the advantage in that respect.
"I really enjoy playing at home, with the crowd support," Anderson said.
"Maybe Croatia are under a lot of pressure, but I think most players will tell you they prefer playing at home. I think if you gave the Croatian team the option, they would prefer to play at home."
Anderson has had a solid season, winning the SA Open in February, and showed good form by reaching the third round of the US Open in New York last week. where he lost to America's Mardy Fish.
And while he said he had not quite reached his own expectations, the world No 34 was satisfied with his progress since the tie against the Netherlands.
"I think I’ve improved over the last two months. I’ve had some good matches. I’ve also had some very close matches, and if I had got through those, I would have had the season I set out to have."
Croatia are missing some of their top-ranked players, with Ivan Ljubicic making himself unavailable for international duty since July last year, and Ivo Karlovic not making the trip for personal reasons.
Anderson, however, said the visitors would still pose a formidable challenge, with world No 28 Marin Cilic and world No 33 Ivan Dodig both making the trip.
Antonio Veic and Nikola Mektic, the other two players in the team, are both ranked well outside the top 100 in the world and unlikely to play, but Anderson said if either of Croatia’s top two were unable to take the court, the South Africans could take control.
Izak van der Merwe and Rik de Voest, the host nation’s second and third ranked players, are both rated higher than Veic and Mektic.
"Their main line-up is still strong, and Dodig is very strong, so they’ve got some depth," Anderson said.
"Ivo is very dangerous at high altitude, but if something happens to one of their top two players - not that the other two won’t step up and play great tennis - that would be good for us."
Either way, the SA number one said they were bracing themselves for a fight from the favoured Croatians, the 2005 World Group champions.
"Croatia has a good team and they enjoy playing Davis Cup," Anderson said.
"We’re expecting a tough challenge, which is the way it should be when you’re playing for a place in the World Group."