New Fed Cup captain for SA
John-Laffnie De Jager (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Tennis South Afica (TSA) has decided to separate the captaincies of the country's Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams - currently both in the hands of John-Laffnie de Jager.
This was confirmed on Monday by TSA vice-president and acting CEO Gavin Crookes.
But, perhaps, more provocative than this decision, was the fact that TSA will now call on prospective candidates to apply for both positions, in spite of the fact that De Jager has been at the helm of the country's Davis Cup team for the past eight years.
"There is nothing sinister about this," said Crookes.
"We want to be transparent regarding the procedure and will give all those interested in the position the chance to make an application.
"In fact, with John-Laffnie's contract expiring at the end of December, we have extended it for a month by mutual consent in order for him to handle the South African team for the Davis Cup tie against Monaco at the Irene Country Club early next year."
De Jager, meanwhile, said he would submit an application to continue as Davis Cup captain.
Although South Africa was relegated this year to the Euro-Africa Group Two segment of the Davis Cup after a 5-0 defeat in the deciding relegation decider against Russia, De Jager could hardly be blamed for the national team plunging to what is effectively the third tier of the competition.
The depleted South African team against Russia was plagued by injuries and the unavailability of other top players.
World 20th-ranked Kevin Anderson, the country's top player, had declined to make himself available for Davis Cup duty all year.
In the four previous years, De Jager guided the South African team to the play-off stage of the prestigious World Group of the Davis Cup, losing to India, Croatia, Germany, and Canada in turn.
De Jager said he agreed it made sense to separate the captain's position of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams so the two captains could concentrate their efforts on either the men's or women's team.
"I'm hoping to continue my work with the Davis Cup squad," De Jager said.
"I'm already busy confirming which players will be available for the Monaco tie.
"Good news is that Izak van der Merwe, who was out of tennis for much of 2013 after a foot and ankle surgery, is preparing to return to tournament competition in January."
As for the choice of a successor to Smith as the TSA's CEO, Crookes said a similar procedure of evaluation of candidates to that of the Davis Cup captain would take place early in 2014.