SA to face weakened Croatia

2011-09-06 21:42

Johannesburg - Croatia announced a weakened team on Tuesday for the crucial World Group Davis Cup play-off in Potchefstroom next week, which would appear to give South Africa a fighting chance.

Ivan Ljubicic and Ivo Karlovic, two of the East Europeans' four leading players, declared themselves unavailable.

As a result, the Croatian squad named by the International Tennis Federation now consists of Marin Cilic, ranked 28th in the world, Ivan Dodig (33rd), Antonio Veic (182nd) and Nikola Mektic (262nd).

Cilic and Dodig are both ranked higher than top South African Kevin Anderson, ranked 34th, and might still be considered slight favourites.

However, with South Africa playing on home courts and the unavailable Karlovic considered Croatia's top doubles player, the balance of power has appreciably swung.

Karlovic featured in a victory over the world's top-ranked Mike and Bob Bryan in the United States Open at Flushing Meadows.

The tie could determine which country qualifies for next year's World Group in the prestigious team competition.

A highlight will be the clash between Anderson and Cilic, but Dodig recently beat defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal and will clearly be a force to be reckoned with.

The South African squad which will be attempting to gain Davis Cup World Group status for the first time since 1998 consists of Anderson, Rik De Voest, Izak van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen.