Cape Town – South African Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska on Tuesday announced his side to take on Portugal in an important Euro/Africa Group 1 relegation playoff in Lisbon next weekend (October 19 and 20).
South Africa lost their first round Group 1 tie against Israel 3-2 at the Irene Country Club outside Pretoria in February – a result that put them in the relegation playoff position.
The South Africa team to take on the Portuguese comprises of Lloyd Harris, Nik Scholtz, Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse and debutant Philip Henning, with Tucker Vorster travelling with the team as practice partner.
The squad, with the exception of Henning, is the same one that saw off both Estonia and Slovenia and beat Denmark 4-1 away from home last year to gain promotion to Euro/Africa Group 1.
SA’s top singles player, Kevin Anderson, is again unavailable which leaves world No 113 Harris as the top-ranked singles player in the team.
Ondruska said late last month he was harbouring hopes of Anderson making himself available for the tie.
Harris this past weekend won his second career ATP Challenger title in Stockton, California. He won his first Challenger title in Kentucky in August and has reached a final and six quarter-finals of other Challenger events this year.
Harris qualified for his first ever Grand Slam at the US Open in August where he lost to Frenchman Gilles Simon in the first round and then went on to upset former world No 6 Gael Monfils at the ATP Chengdu Open, before losing in a titanic three set battle against Australia’s Bernard Tomic.
Scholtz will be playing his eighth tie for South Africa.
Klaasen, South Africa’s highest-ranked doubles player, will once again do duty for his country and will more than likely partner Roelofse for the doubles rubber. Klaasen and Roelofse are unbeaten in Davis Cup competition and have played seven rubbers together since 2015.
A welcome addition to the team is Henning, South Africa’s highest-ranked junior.
Henning, who is presently on duty for South Africa at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, played in all four junior Grand Slams this year.
He won seven out of a possible eight national singles titles during his junior career and also won the African Junior Championships.
On Sunday evening, Henning was presented with the President’s Award at the gala dinner of the Growthpoint Masters in Potchefstroom for his outstanding achievements on court and excellent off court sportsmanship.
With the new format being trialed this year and at this tie specifically, Henning could well play the tie as the new format allows the captain to play all five team members over the two-day tie and not just four nominated players as in the previous format over three days.
“Portugal have a lot of depth. I am expecting the Portuguese to name a full-strength side and with them having three players ranked in the world’s top 200 it gives them ample options on selection,” Ondruska said.
Ondruska added it was going to be a difficult tie. “It’s never easy playing away. Portugal have chosen outdoor clay which is their preferred surface and they will have the crowds behind them but saying that I have a motivated team, Lloyd Harris and Raven Klaasen are in great form, so I expect the tie to be an interesting battle.”
Portugal are expected to name their side on Wednesday.
The SA team and their current ranking positions: Lloyd Harris (113 singles, 286 doubles); Nik Scholtz (492 singles, 1 325 doubles); Raven Klaasen (18 doubles), Ruan Roelofse (158 doubles), Philip Henning (ITF Junior ranking 66).