ATP Tour

SA's confusing road to avoid Davis Cup relegation

2018-02-23 12:18
Lloyd Harris (BLD Communications)

Cape Town - Because of what the International Tennis Federation (ITF) admit is a format sprinkled with a string of tortuous uncertainties, South Africa are currently confronted by an unpredictable road in the attempt to avoid relegation from the Euro-Africa Group One segment of the Davis Cup following the deflating loss to Israel earlier in the month.

This has been confirmed by an ITF spokesperson, who explained a simpler system had not been possible because of the uncertainty as to how many countries would be participating in the Euro-Africa Group One Davis Cup segment this year at the time the 2018 programme was finalised - this because the number of teams was dependent on results in the World Group playoffs.

The net result is a maze of unknowns, with South Africa due to face Ukraine, Portugal, the Czech Republic - or a combination of two of these countries in ties in September and October - to remain in Euro-Africa Group One of the Davis Cup in 2019.

At this point, the likeliest outcome is that South Africa will face the Ukraine in a sudden-death playoff at home in September, with further imponderables surrounding the make-up of the teams and results in many other ties.

South Africa would face a difficult challenge against Ukraine should the East Europeans select their strongest available line-up, which would include Alexandr Dolgopolov (ranked 47th in the world, but with a career-best ranking of 13th) and Sergiy Stakhovsky (ranked 117th in the world, but with a career-best ranking of 32nd).

However, like South Africa, who have found themselves in a Davis Cup predicament as a result of the seven-year non-availability of current world No 9, Kevin Anderson, Ukraine were missing Dolgopolov, a notably gifted, but enigmatic stroke maker who is capable of extending anyone in the world on a good day, the Eastern Europeans were also without their dominant No 1 player for the recent surprise defeat against Sweden.

And further disquieting news for South Africa's Davis Cup prospects is that 20-year-old Lloyd Harris, who has assumed the role of No 1 singles player in the absence of Anderson, is experiencing a string of poor results, with his elevation to an encouraging 199th world ranking towards the end of 2017, having now deteriorated to a disturbing 340th.

So, should South Africa ultimately square up against Ukraine, the outcome could depend on which of the two countries is able to select its strongest possible squad to avoid an ignominious drop to Euro-Africa Group Two of the Davis Cup.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  davis cup  |  sy lerman  |  tennis

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