Double blow for SA tennis
Johannesburg - South African tennis received a double blow on Sunday when the country's top men's and women's players, Kevin Anderson and Chani Scheepers, made themselves unavailable for vital upcoming Davis Cup and Fed Cup matches.
The disquitening news released by John-Laffnie de Jager, captain of the country's men's and women's teams, has the further deflating prospect of South Africa not being represented in the tennis segment of this year's London Olympic Games at the renowned Wimbledon venue.
In keeping with Internaional Tennis Federation rules, Anderson and Scheepers needed to play in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions this year to be eligible to participate at the Games.
"We must soldier on without Kevin and Chani in next month's Euro-Africa Group One Davis Cup tie against Slovenia [at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto] and the Fed Cup Euro-Africa Group Two playoffs in Egypt," De Jager said.
There was no doubt the withdrawal of the two top players had greatly reduced the prospect of victories that are vital for the future development of SA tennis.
De Jager said he would rather not comment on the decisions of Anderson and Scheepers.
The SA captain said he would have to radically re-evaluate the composition of both the Davis Cup and Fed Cup squads in view of the unavailability of both players.
It now seems certain that the success of the Davis Cup team to face Slovenia will be entrusted on perennial stalwarts Rik De Voest and Izak van der Merwe for the singles matches, with the doubles pairing up in the air without Anderson.
South Africa must beat Slovenia in order to make a fourth successive attempt to regain a place in the Davis Cup World Group after an absence of more than a decade.
With Anderson, South Africa would have appeared strong favourites.
Without him the SA and Slovenian squads appear reasonably well-matched, with only home-court advantage tipping the scales somewhat towards the hosts.
De Jager had delayed the selections of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup squads in the hope of Anderson and Scheepers coming to the party.
"Now we have to put Plan B into force with little time to spare, and it is something of a rush job," he said.