ATP Tour

Grainger picks Davis Cup team

2015-02-11 19:15
Earl Grainger (Photo: Reg Caldecott)

Johannesburg - Caretaker coach Earl Grainger on Wednesday named a South African Davis Cup squad which he says has a 50/50 chance against Turkey next month.

Fresh off a successful stint in guiding the South African Fed Cup to promotion to the Euro-Africa Group Two segment next year, Grainger was named caretaker Davis Cup captain for 2015, in addition to his Fed Cup duties, following the resignation of the long-serving John-Laffnie de Jager.

The squad announced by Grainger was based on the world rankings, barring the unavailability of Kevin Anderson and Nikala Scholtz and consisted of Fritz Wolmerans, ranked 429th in the world, Tucker Vorster (431), Ruan Roelofse (457) and doubles specialist Raven Klaasen, who had featured among the top 20 world doubles players and is currently in 29th position.

Although depleted for the Euro-Africa Group Two tie without the world's 15th-ranked Anderson, Grainger provided some reassuring news in that South Africa's number one player had expressed a definite interest in ending his three-year, self-imposed absence from Davis Cup competition later in the year.

"I have spoken to Kevin and his agent. There is no doubt he genuinely would like to play in the Davis Cup again if some loose ends can be ironed out," Grainger said.

"These include his busy tournament schedule, but there appears to me no obstacles that cannot be overcome in this respect and I remain hopeful."

However, with the tough away game against Turkey pending -- from March 6 to 8 -- any ending of Anderson's self-imposed banishment might come too late to provide South Africa with a chance of gaining promotion to the Euro-Africa Group One segment in 2016.

A defeat against Turkey would end South Africa's chance of promotion this year from what is effectively the third-tier of the competition and could even leave the country in a position of staving off relegation.

And with Turkey's top player, Marsel Ilhan, boasting a ranking of 102nd in the world and also enjoying home-court advantage, the extent of the task at hand was clear.

Grainger, however, remained quietly confident and would appear to be pinning his hopes on the doubles expertise of Klaasen, in particular, to tip the scales in South Africa's favour, with the four singles games ending all-square.

The South African captain was also encouraged by the fact that the Turkish authorities had elected to play the tie on an indoor hardcourt surface instead of on clay, on which much of the tennis was played in the country.

"South African players have little opportunity of playing on clay, and hardcourts are the preferred surface of all our four players. So from that point of view, we could not have asked for a more suitable venue," Grainger said.

"Also I am familiar with all the players I have chosen, having coached some of them and I am sure they will all give 100 percent for their country."

A victory over Turkey would result in South Africa facing either Belarus away or Ireland in the next step towards promotion, with the tie taking place in July shortly after the Wimbledon championships.

A further victory would then be needed in September in order to cement promotion.

Defeat against Turkey, on the other hand, would result in South Africa facing the loser of the Belarus-Ireland match to avoid relegation.

Grainger said he had named Dean O'Brien as the reserve for the four-man Davis Cup squad, with Scholtz's unavailability due to commitments at his university in America.


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