Van der Merwe shines for SA
Izak van der Merwe (File)
Johannesburg - Izak van der Merwe levelled the scores at 1-1 with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Slovenian Grega Zemlja in the Euro-Africa group one Davis Cup tie at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex, in Soweto, on Friday.
Ruan Roelofse lost the first match to Blaz Kavcic before Van der Merwe drew South Africa level heading into Saturday's crucial doubles rubber.
With the hosts having lost the first point, Van der Merwe, the SA's no 1 for this tie, stepped on the court with the responsibility squarely on his shoulders.
The fast serving 28-year-old responded in dominant fashion and raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set, and while Zemlja eventually picked up his first game of the match, the South African took the first set 6-1.
The Slovenian fought back in the second set as he broke Van der Merwe in the third game and went on to win 6-3.
The turning point of the match came in the third game of the third set. Van der Merwe found himself 0-40 down on his serve, and after saving six break points was able hold his serve and knock the wind out of Zemlja's sails.
Van der Merwe took the set 6-3, and in the fourth he won 6-4 to give the hosts the momentum heading into the doubles.
Earlier, Slovenia's No 1, Kavcic, struck the first blow of the tie with a 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Roelofse.
Roelofse started in aggressive fashion, demonstrating a strong forehand but an error-stricken backhand.
The South African began the match by double faulting on his serve in the first game, as he was broken early on, but he fought back to break Kavcic in the sixth game.
After a number of tight games that followed, the opening set went to a tie-break, and Roelofse composed himself to prevail 7-4.
The Slovenian then began to show his class as he broke Roelofse in his first service game in the second set, and again in the sixth game to win 6-1.
The third set was one-way traffic as Kavcic won by the same 6-1 margin, and he dominated again in the fourth.
Roelofse tried to get back into the match but the Slovenian won 6-3 to hand the visitors the first point of the tie.