ATP Tour

Uniform boost for SA tennis after ATP Cup efforts

2020-01-10 12:50
Lloyd Harris
Lloyd Harris (Getty Images)

Cape Town - "The bitter taste of defeat can sometimes be accompanied by a soothing element of satisfaction," is a premise that refers to many a valiant, well-fought battle.

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And so it has emerged for South African tennis from the current ATP Cup event in Australia despite the failure to make it to the quarter-final stage, recalling that it was more than two decades since the country had competed in a team tennis tournament at this pinnacle level.

Both singles players, the 22-year-old, burgeoning Lloyd Harris and one-time world No 5, Kevin Anderson, because of his lengthy absence from competition while plagued by injuries, exceeded expectations and the doubles combination of the world eighth-ranked Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse, demonstrated they could hold their own with the best the game can offer.

In the end, South Africa gained a meritorious 2-1 victory over France, a 3-0 success against Chile and suffered a 3-0 but doughty loss against iconic Novak Djokovic's Serbian combination.

What this meant was that had South Africa managed to win only one more game somewhere along the way they would have qualified for a quarter-final berth in what is proving an intriguing and widely-supported new event.

It has also shown that South Africa has a potential line-up that could reach the final stages of the even more prestigious Davis Cup in 2021 - though it would be too late to progress through the required qualifying stages this year - if Anderson relents in ending his nine-year long unavailability from the event.

In the more immediate circumstances, attention will be focused on how Harris and Anderson fare in the singles in the coming Australian Open Grand Slam extravaganza in Melbourne, as well as Klaasen with his New Zealand partner, Michael Venus, in the doubles.

Also special interest in Melbourne will centre round Colombia's world No 1 doubles combination of Juan Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah, who are coached by Jeff Coetzee, the South African team captain in the ATP Team Cup and Director of SA Tennis.

The Australian Open will be the first in the past decade in which Anderson has not been ranked South Africa's No 1 player, with Harris assuming this mantle with a 91st world ranking next week and Anderson having plummeted to 121st mainly through his limited tournament activity in 2019.

Ironically, also, Harris will likely receive an automatic entry into the 128-man Australian Open singles. while Anderson will secure a place by virtue of a wildcard or protected ranking.

However, Anderson, a two-time Grand Slam finalist, will not be seeded in view of his lowly current ranking and this creates an uneasy possibility for him of facing a seed as early as the first round.


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