Cape Town - The total eclipse of South
Africa in last week's Euro-Africa Group Two Fed Cup tournament in Luxembourg
has left the country with relegation blues from both the most recent
men's and women's premier international team events following on a similar
fate in last year's Davis Cup.
One of only nine nations among the
211 ITF affiliates who can boast of securing title triumphs in the Davis
Cup and Fed Cup, the current stark decline of South Africa's men's and
women's teams has embraced disturbing and puzzling elements.
And adding insult to injury for South
Africa in both the Davis Cup and Fed Cup losses is the fact that the final
nails in the coffin were hammered home by teams from Portugal, traditionally
tennis opponents who held out few dangers and problems.
In the Davis Cup relegation tie against
Portugal that destined South Africa's demotion to the Euro-Africa Group
Two segment this year for a match-up against Bulgaria, the 4-0 defeat was
made more embarrassing by the fact that it included a loss in the doubles for
the favoured pairing of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse.
Competing in the Euro-Africa Group Two Fed
Cup section in Luxembourg, South Africa suffered 2-1 defeats against both the
home nation and Israel, before going down 2-0 against a dominant Portuguese
outfit - resulting in a return to the lowly Euro-Africa Group Three segment next year.
And so the Davis Cup and Fed Cup honours
achieved in the 1970s have indeed become a distant memory, with a
continuation of the Davis Cup slide in particular materialising at the
inopportune time when the event is set to be revolutionised this year -
culminating in a World Cup-styled final of 16 qualifying nations and South
Africa's chance of inclusion having bitten the dust with the defeat against
The unfortunate eight-year,
self-imposed absence of current world No 5, Kevin Anderson, from Davis
Cup play has made what would surely have been a world of difference to South
Africa's record in the competition, but it does not explain the dearth of other world class men emerging during the past decade and more apart from the
admirable, enduring and accommodating Klaasen in doubles.
In the past 12 months, 21-year-old, Cape
Town-born Lloyd Harris has raised hopes he might fulfil the potential to
progress into the echelon of players who rank among the world's top 50 or
thereabouts after climbing to a current career-best 98th. But among the women
the top South African is presently Chanel Simmonds in 488th position.
And this from a country with a proud
tennis history over many years and the facilities from which there is no good
reason why it should not have been maintained.