sa serves a whitewash

South Africa continued to separate the men from the Macedonians as they duly completed a 5-0 whitewash win in the Euro-Africa Group One Davis Cup tie at a sun-baked Emperors Palace yesterday afternoon.

Ultimately, however, it was the outclassed East European tennis players who were scorched to a cinder as Raven Klaasen beat 19-year-old Illija Martinoski 6-2 6-2 on his Davis Cup singles debut and towering 1,95m Izak van der Merwe out-served and out-smarted Dimitar Grabuloski in a comprehensive 6-4 6-0 annihilation that lasted only 45 minutes.

Such was Van der Merwe's dominance over an opponent who became increasingly more demoralised that the first four games of the second set lasted a helter-skelter nine minutes as the loose ends were tied up before what is sure to be a more testing encounter against Belarus in May. This tie that would afford South Africa the opportunity to participate in a play-off for a place in the elite World Group in 2010.

Macedonian team captain Vladimir Andonov showered praise on the South Africans and singled out Rik De Voest "for his brilliance in both singles and doubles", while describing the De Voest-Jeff Coetzee pairing as the best his team had yet encountered in the Euro-Group One segment of the Davis Cup.

The Macedonians' real nemesis, however, appeared to be the high altitude conditions in which the pace of the ball through the air is a lot faster than they have encountered in Skopje and other areas in the land-locked country of approximately four-million inhabitants.

And, to be sure, while the South African players performed impressively against Macedonia and produced everything that could have been asked of them, it would be folly to overestimate the success against what was strictly limited opposition in the wider context of international tennis. - Sapa