Outranked by SA but ready to fight

2009-03-05 00:00

AFTER expressing some doubt earlier in the week as to their ability to beat South Africa in the crucial Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 Davis Cup tie from today to Sunday at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, the men from Macedonia in south-east Europe were in a more combative mood yesterday.

Non-playing captain Vladimir Andonov said that even though none of his players has a world ranking to match their South African counterparts, he and his team are confident of giving a good account of themselves.

Andonov said the hardcourt surface at the Emperors Palace is faster than anything his players are used to, “but we are from the Balkans and we fight for our country”.

“We know that with the Davis Cup it’s not always your world ranking that counts,” Andonov said.

“We know our players have low rankings but we are representing Macedonia and that means everything to us.

“The world rankings are just numbers and we’ve seen upsets in Davis Cup competition.”

SA non-playing captain John-Laffnie de Jager has opted for Izak van der Merwe rather than Braaiketts KZN Open winner Raven Klaasen to fill the number two singles spot.

“Izak has played Davis Cup three times previously and I am confident he will be able to deliver,” De Jager said at an Emperors Palace press conference yesterday.

“I am happy with Izak’s form and the way he has practised on the Emperor’s Palace court in the build-up this week.”

For his part, Van der Merwe is quite comfortable playing in today’s 10 am opening match against Macedonia number one Predrag Rusevski.

“I am happy to play first on Friday as I don’t like to wait around to play my matches,” Van der Merwe said.

SA number one Rik de Voest said that while he hasn’t played against the Macedonia players, he has seen them on the circuit.

“That’s where the unknown factor comes in, which can cause upsets, so we need to dominate the court from the outset,” he said.

And SA, already at a disadvantage with the unavailability of number one Kevin Anderson and doubles star Wesley Moodie, would do well to heed De Voest’s words.

Rusevski said practice on the Emperors Palace hardcourt has gone well.

“The ball still travels fast, but we are getting used to it,” Rusevski said.

“We will be playing with high-altitude balls and the points will be short. We don’t know how the South Africans play, but we know their best player, Kevin Anderson, is not playing. We are here with our strongest team and we’ve been working out for the past two weeks as a team.”

Of interest to KZN tennis fans is that Eshowe-born Clare Wood (41) is the match referee for the tie at Emperors Palace.

Her family moved to England when she was 10 and she was a top British player before turning to officiating for the ITF and WTA Tour all over the world.

ORDER OF PLAY:

Friday (from 10 am): 2-Izak van der Merwe (Rsa) vs 1-Predrag Rusevski (Mkd); 1-Rik de Voest (Rsa) vs 2-Lazar Magdincev (Mkd).

Saturday (from 1 pm): Jeff Coetzee/Rik de Voest (Rsa) vs Predrag Rusevski/Lazar Magdincev (Mkd).

Sunday (from 10 am): Reverse singles.

TV: SuperSport 5 and SS7.

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