Johannesburg - A defeat in the first round of the Australian Open for South Africa's Chani Scheepers was disappointing but would not affect South Africa's prospects in next month's Euro-Africa Group Two Fed Cup event in Estonia.
This was the view of Fed Cup captain Earl Grainger on Tuesday after South Africa's top women's player was beaten 6-4 4-6 6-2 by Slovakia's Anna Schmiedlova in Melbourne.
"At 74th, Schmiedlova is ranked a few notches above Chani, who is currently in 81st position. So losing a closely contested match in the Australian Open was no disgrace," Grainger said on Tuesday.
"Chani put up a brave fight and showed there is not much wrong with her form going into the Fed Cup event on February 4."
It was former ATP tour player Grainger who was initially responsible for Scheepers returning to the Fed Cup mix after an absence of 10 years.
"Estonia's 48th world-ranked Kaia Kanepi will be the highest rated on her home courts and Slovenia also have a player who is marginally better ranked than Chani.
"But two of the eight competing teams will qualify for promotion to Euro-Africa Group One and we certainly remain with a fighting chance of success."
Scheepers said she had never made a firm decision not to represent South Africa again in spite of her long absence from the Fed Cup but clashes between her tour schedule and the Fed Cup kept her out.
South Africa had slipped into what was effectively the fourth tier of the tournament and with a largely youthful team, including Chanel Simmonds, Ilze Hattingh and Michelle Sammons, having come close to gaining promotion, the injection of Scheepers could improve their chances.