De Jager wants clay in SA
John Laffnie de Jager (Gallo Images)
South Africa's non-playing Davis Cup captain, John-Laffnie de Jager, said on Friday that Germany's 2-0 lead on day one of the Davis Cup World Group playoff in Stuttgart has highlighted the need for clay courts back home.
The visiting team's two singles specialists, Izak van der Merwe and Rik de Voest, both ranked outside the top 150 in the world, put up brave fights against their more fancied German opponents, Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber, both ranked among the top 50, but the hosts dominated on the slow surface to put South Africa on the back foot.
"I think this shows once again that we really need clay courts in South Africa," De Jager said.
"There are so many clay surfaces on the circuit these days, all over the world, and they're getting heavier and slower. If you grow up without playing on clay, you're at a real disadvantage, and something needs to be done to give the guys, especially the youngsters, a chance to play on clay back home."
Van der Merwe, South Africa's No 1, drew level with Mayer after two sets, but the German No 2 completely dominated the third. And while Van der Merwe took the fourth to a tie-break, Mayer secured a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) victory.
"I felt I had practiced really well. I was hitting the ball well and I really wanted to play my best," Van der Merwe said.
"At points I think I played well in the second and fourth sets, but I would have loved to make the tie-break and go through to the fifth."
The 26-year-old, the youngest member of the South African team, said Mayer had taken control with some aggressive play in the third set.
"He seemed more confident in the third and he became super aggressive," Van der Merwe said.
"He put a lot of pressure on me and he was swinging at everything, and I think that‘s what made the difference."
De Jager said Van der Merwe had proved he had the ability to take his game to another level.
"Even though Izak lost, I think he has shown a huge improvement," said the skipper.
"Looking at his career, and his future, he's really got the ability to play on clay, because you have to be able to move around on the heavy surface, and he showed he can do that.
"To come back the way he did in the third set, winning five games in a row, he also showed he's a great competitor."
De Voest, South Africa's No 2, put up a tremendous fight but eventually went down 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to German No 1 Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Nonetheless, he said he was relatively pleased with his performance against the world No 31.
"It's difficult to be happy when you've lost, but Philipp is a quality player," De Voest said.
"He's got more experience than me on clay, and I tried a few things during the match, but he was more consistent than me and I think in the end that was the difference between the two of us."