Shortened Davis Cup format could require gunslingers
South Africa’s top Davis Cup player Lloyd Harris says he’s feeling no extra pressure ahead of his team’s campaign against Israel at the Irene country club in Pretoria on Friday.
Harris was drawn to play Israel’s No2 Edan Leshem in the opening rubber of a contest rated as SA’s toughest yet by captain Marcos Ondruska.
Harris‚ who turns 21 later this month‚ is 25 days older than New York-born Leshem but‚ at 289 in the world‚ he is 35 spots lower on the world rankings.
“It’s definitely business as usual‚” Harris said at the draw on Thursday.
“Obviously we’re coming up against a tough team but we’re playing home‚ in front of the home crowd and I think we’ve done really well here in Irene so I’m pretty confident‚ me and the team‚ we’ll just give it our best on the weekend and hopefully we’ll get the result that we want.”
South Africa is unbeaten so far at their Irene base‚ but now they’re in Group I‚ just one below the main draw of the Davis Cup.
“It’s a quality team‚ the best team we have faced‚” said Ondruska.
“I’ve been looking at the guys practise‚ seeing what they have and don’t have and figure out some ideas we can go into these matches with.”
But a lot of the analysis would happen on court as the match unfolds‚ he added‚ pointing out the South Africans were playing better than they’ve ever done before.
And it’s this blooming team dynamic that keeps bringing doubles specialist Raven Klaasen back.
“Coming back with the boys is a little break from what I do on the tour every day and it’s certainly one of the more fun weeks you can have as a tennis player‚” said Klaasen‚ ranked 27th in the world as a doubles player.
“This group has been together for a while now and the chemistry is gelling well and I think it shows out there on the court. We’re a tough team to beat and we leave it all out there on court.”
Klaasen said team bonding was a critical factor for him.
“When you’re out there on court and things are going tough‚ these boys have got your back and with time you learn what the guys need when they’re down.”
Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse will be in action on Saturday against Daniel Cukierman and veteran Jonathan Erlich‚ who at 40 is older than his captain‚ Harel Levy‚ 39.
Erlich‚ Levy and Israel’s No 1‚ Dudi Sela‚ were part of the team that punched above their weight to reach the Davis Cup semifinals in 2009 where they lost to eventual winners Spain.
Some players are uncertain about how they’ll find the new Davis Cup format‚ where matches are best of three tie-break sets instead of five.
Others think they’ll have to come out like gunslingers‚ shooting fast and accurately‚ like SA’s No2‚ Nik Scholtz.
“We always try start as well as we can‚ but it’s in the back of your mind it’s nice to have that loophole where you can tell yourself‚ if I don’t start the match 100% I can always climb my way back in.
“But with the three sets you have to start well before you know it you’ve run out of time.”
Scholtz‚ 325 in the world‚ has a tough assignment against Sela‚ ranked 97th‚ in Friday’s second match.
The doubles and reverse singles are all scheduled for Saturday‚ with Sunday set aside only as a reserve day.
Play on Friday begins at 4pm.
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