Johannesburg - Former top South African player Marcos Ondruska has been named Davis Cup captain, Tennis South Africa (TSA) has announced.
Ondruska, 42, has been appointed in the position for the next two years.
Earl Grainger, who has held the position for the last two years, has been retained as captain of the Fed Cup team. Grainger also stepped in as caretaker manager of the Davis Cup team following the resignation of John-Laffnie de Jager.
“We are greatly appreciative of the work Earl has done for us over the past couple of years and the dedication he has shown,” said TSA CEO Gavin Crookes.
“However, we decided to split the two positions again and having somebody with Marcos’s record and experience at the highest level of the game applying for the position the decision was made a lot easier to make.
“He applied for the job and we have appointed him for 2016 and 2017. I am delighted Marcos has accepted the position.”
Ondruska says he is extremely excited to take over as Davis Cup captain. “Davis Cup is something close to my heart and something I have a passion for. It is a team event in a sport that is played almost exclusively alone, which provides a great opportunity to learn. Just as I learned from my former Davis Cup coaches in real-time lessons that helped me grow as a player, I would like to pass on what I learned to the younger guys.
“My years as a Davis Cup player have given me the experience to understand the format, be comfortable with it, and guide the players when things get close and the tie is on the line. I was fortunate enough to have played in numerous 2-2 matches and was successful in a lot of them.
“I am also looking to provide a United States base for our South African Players at the Van Der Meer academy. This is the next logical step for players who have collected enough points and have a start on the ATP rankings. There are numerous futures and challengers within driving distance from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
“Wayne Ferreira is also based here and we would like to ensure that all the players' games are improving and getting to that next level even while on tour. This provides a functional and affordable option that should ensure the players' individual success, and also help the Davis Cup success in tandem,” said Ondruska.
Ondruska, who was ranked as high as No 27 in the world, had a record of 13 wins and nine losses in Davis Cup and played along Wayne Ferreira and Grant Stafford. However, he was always known as the man for the big occasion. One of the highlights of his career was when South Africa played Austria in Johannesburg in 1996 and with the tie level at 2-2, the Austrians pulled in world no 19 Gilbert Schaller to play the deciding rubber, claiming their selected player, Wolfgang Schranz, was injured.
The move backfired as Ondruska saw off the Austrian in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 6-2.
He did the same against Australia at Westridge Park in Durban with a team comprising Pat Rafter, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge. With the tie all square at 2-2, Ondruska had to beat Mark Woodforde and that is exactly what he did.
Ondruska had wins over a number of top 10 players including Michael Chang, Michael Stich and Goran Ivanisevic. He also reached the doubles semi-final of Australian Open in 1993 with John-Laffnie de Jager.
He will be assisted by two consultants, one being former ATP and Davis Cup player Jeff Coetzee and the second to be announced later, in an effort to build a team for the future. “I was fortunate enough to watch some of our young stars in action in Stellenbosch, and think that there is a lot of potential and an exciting future ahead for tennis in South Africa,” said Ondruska.
Grainger has had excellent results with the Fed Cup team and as a result of his efforts South Africa will compete in Europe/Africa Zone Group I for the first time since 2006 after winning promotion from Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2015.
South Africa defeated Finland 2-0 in the promotion play-offs to book their place in Zone Group I. The South Africans were undefeated through three ties in the round-robin stages of the event in Tallinn, with Chani Scheepers going a perfect 4-0 in singles as well as teaming up with Chanel Simmonds to win a decisive doubles against Estonia.
Grainger said he was proud to have been appointed Fed Cup coach once again. “I am honoured that TSA have belief in me as coach and my aim and objective is to continue on the road to success like we did this year.
Ondruska’s first outing as captain will be against Luxembourg from 4 to 6 March at home in South Africa (venue still to be announced) whilst Grainger will lead his Fed Cup team in the Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 tournament in Eilat, Israel from 3 to 6 February.