Marcos Ondruska announced from Seattle, USA on Tuesday his South African Davis Cup side to take on Portugal next weekend in the all-important Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group 1 relegation play-off from October 19 to 20, in Lisbon, Portugal.
South Africa lost their first round Group 1 tie against Israel at 2-3 at the Irene Country Club outside Pretoria in February, which put them in the relegation play-off position.
The KIA South Africa team to take on the Portuguese comprises 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 last year saw off both Estonia and Slovenia and that beat Denmark away from home 4-1 to gain promotion to Euro/Africa Group 1 this year. The team will be captained by Marcos Ondruska.
Harris remains the second highest ranked South African player on the world rankings (after Kevin Anderson, who was not available for the tie) and this past weekend won his second career Challenger title in Stockton, California. He won his first Challenger title in Kentucky, USA in August and has reached a final and six quarterfinals 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 number 6 Gael Monfils the top seed in the ATP Chengdu Open before losing in a titanic three-set battle against former world number 17 Australian Bernard Tomic in the same tournament. Harris goes into the tie at a career singles high ranking of 113.
Scholtz will be playing his eighth tie for South Africa.
South Africa’s highest world ranked doubles player Raven Klaasen will once again do duty for his country and will more than likely partner Ruan 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 Philip Henning – South Africa’s highest world ranked junior. Henning, who is presently doing duty for South African at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, played in all four junior Grand Slam’s this year, has won 7 out of a possible 8 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 the court and excellent off court sportsmanship.
With the new format being trialled 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.
Ondruska said that the tie was going to be very interesting. “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 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.”
Meanwhile, TSA confirmed that once again, KIA Motors South Africa would be the sponsor of the SA team.
Portugal are expected to name their side on Wednesday.
SA team and their current ranking positions: Lloyd Harris (113 singles, 286 doubles); Nik Scholtz (492 singles, 1325 doubles); Raven Klaasen (18 doubles), Ruan Roelofse (158 doubles), Philip Henning (ITF Junior ranking 66). – TENNIS SA