SA's Davis Cup team confident
John Laffnie de Jager (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa's Davis Cup team are confident ahead of their crucial World Group playoff against Canada in Montreal this week.
The Canadians are heavily favoured to retain their place in the top tier of the men's global team competition, while the visitors face an uphill battle as they enter the playoffs for the fourth year in succession.
"The whole team gathered here on Saturday evening and we have had good practice sessions," veteran Rik de Voest, the top ranked player in South Africa's quartet, said on Wednesday.
"It has gone well, and the hardcourt surface is the same as the one used at the US Open, so most of us are used to it.
"We're also in the same time zone (after playing in US Open qualifiers), so we're looking forward to this tie."
The hosts boast a strong line-up, including world number 15 Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic and Daniel Nestor, who is rated third in the world among doubles players.
De Voest, ranked 170th in the world, will lead an underdog SA squad which includes Izak van der Merwe, doubles specialist Raven Klaasen and 21-year-old debutant Nikala Scholtz.
"Canada have a really strong team, but we've played against some of them before," said Van der Merwe.
"We know we have to win only three matches -- we don't need to win all five.
"So it's going to be a tough challenge, but we're up for it.
"We've won many Davis Cup ties in the last few years, and we know we can win three matches this week."
South Africa are without the country's number one player, Kevin Anderson, who made himself unavailable for the tie, which starts on Friday.
Anderson will instead take part in the World Team Tennis final -- a mixed professional tennis league event which will be played in the United States this week.
The South Africans gave up home advantage earlier this year after Tennis SA announced it did not have the funds to host the Canadian team.