SA face Germany Davis Cup tie
John-Laffnie de Jager (File)
Johannesburg - "Awesome but not impossible," was how team captain John-Laffnie de Jager and most others viewed South Africa's pairing with Germany away when the ITF on Tuesday conducted the draw for the Davis Cup World Group playoffs.
On paper, at least, Germany boast an infinitely stronger line-up headed by the world's 29th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber for the crucial September 17-19 match-up, which includes an impressive nine players among the world's top 100.
All nine are ranked higher than top South African player Kevin Anderson and include Philipp Petzschner (ranked 42nd}, Michael Berrer (43rd) Benjamin Becker (46th), Florian Mayer (48th) and Simon Greul (60th), with no certainty either that the reluctant 97th-rated Anderson will make himself available.
A grain of comfort for South Africa as they bid to claim a place in the elite World Group after more than a decade is that the experienced and potentially explosive, 20th-ranked Tommy Haas, a long-time stalwart of Davis Cup competition, has now taken up United States citizenship and will no longer be available for Germany.
"There is no doubting Germany's depth-in-talent," said De Jager, "but I don't believe they have any player - and that includes Kohlschreiber -who can be placed in the unbeatable category, particularly if we can persuade Anderson to have a change of heart and mind and come to the party."
De Jager said South Africa still probably had an edge on Germany in doubles, with the world's ninth-ranked Wesley Moodie paired with either Rik de Voest or Jeff Coetzee constituting a world-class combination.
South Africa's team captain suggested the Germans might arrange the tie on clay courts - "our worst surface" - although the beckoning winter climate in September could force the match indoors on more agreeable hardcourts.
De Jager said he had made contact with Anderson immediately after the week-end's 5-0 Euro-Africa Group One drubbing of Finland at the Groenkloof Tennis Centre in Pretoria - "and his reaction was quite encouraging," and had arranged to meet Anderson at Wimbledon next month to "sort out matters" and, hopefully he would then be in a position to name a full-strength line-up for the German tie.
The full list of games following the World Group playoff draw (with home teams mentioned first):
Germany v South Africa
Israel v Austria
USA v Colombia
Sweden v Italy
India v Brazil
Australia v Belgium
Kazakhstan v Switzerland
Romania v Ecuador