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Rain in Ljubljana drives SA team indoors

Persistent rain in Ljubljana has driven the South African Davis Cup tennis squad indoors as the players prepare for the crucial Euro-Africa group one Davis Cup tie against Slovenia, which starts on Friday.

The losing team will face what is expected to be a powerful Russian squad next month in order to avoid relegation to the Euro-Africa group two segment of the Davis Cup.

“Fortunately, the indoor facility has clay courts as well, and while they are not as slow as the red clay courts that have been earmarked for the Davis Cup tie, we are getting much-needed practice on a surface that is relatively unfamiliar for our players,” South African team captain John-Laffnie de Jager said on Wednesday.

De Jager said the treatment and accommodation in Slovenia had been impeccable in all other respects. “They told us the treatment they received in South Africa 18 months ago was so good they had to reciprocate in a similar manner,” he said.

The South African captain said Friday’s match court would take some getting used to. “The Slovenians have apparently laid out an extra level of clay to slow up the pace of the ball even further.”

While De Jager confirmed that, in the absence of Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest would fill the number one singles berth for South Africa. The number two singles role was still an open issue.

“Ruan Roelofse, newcomer Dean O’Brien and Nikala Scholtz are all in a similar world ranking bracket and I’m still undecided which of the three will fill the number two singles role,” De Jager said.

“Ultimately, the decision will depend on which of the three possibles adapts better to playing on clay during our practice sessions, with my final decision delayed until shortly before the final squads are announced at Thursday’s draw.”

De Jager also confirmed that top South African doubles player Raven Klassen would be drafted into the final team of four players, with one of Roelofse, O’Brien and Scholtz making way to create an opening.

The South African captain said Klassen’s doubles partner would depend on who emerged as the final singles choice. South Africa beat Slovenia 4-1 on the only previous occasion the countries have met in Davis Cup competition.

However, De Jager said this would be “a totally different ball game” because the match was taking place in Slovenia.

“The world rankings of the Slovenian top players Grega Zemlja [74th] and Blaz Kavcic [103rd] are far better than even that of the 162nd ranked De Voest, and Anderson’s decision not to play is obviously major blow,” De Jager said.

“But strange things happen in Davis Cup competition and I know all my players will give 110 percent to try and avoid a relegation clash against Russia.”


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