Slovenia leave out Zemlja for SA tie

2013-09-13 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — In a surprise move, Slovenia have not named their number one player Grega Zemlja (ranked 74 in the world) in their singles line-up for this weekend’s crucial Davis Cup tie against South Africa.

Veteran South African Davis Cup star Rik de Voest will get South Africa’s weekend campaign under way against Slovenia at the Park Tivoli Tennis Complex in Ljubljana, Slovenia, today. De Voest will play Slovenian number two Blaz Rola in the opener, in what will be a first meeting between the duo.

It will be the 41st time that 33-year-old De Voest will step onto court in the green and gold.

The draw for the first round Group One Europe/Africa play-off tie was made at the historic city hall in Ljubljana yesterday and De Voest’s name was drawn for the first singles rubber.

In the past, De Voest has spoken about the importance of playing Davis Cup for his country and, even though he is a veteran at representing his country, each and every tie holds an important place in his heart.

“I am a bit surprised that the Slovenia number one is not playing singles, but regardless I am looking forward to starting procedures off for my country and hopefully giving South Africa that all important lead after the first rubber,” said De Voest.

The absence of Kevin Anderson and Izak van der Merwe has somewhat weakened the South African line-up, but captain John-Laffnie de Jager and his team remain upbeat about their chances away from home.

De Jager named Ruan Roelofse as his second singles player. Roelofse ironically made his first Davis Cup appearance against Slovenia last year in Soweto where South Africa triumphed 4-1.

Roelofse will be up next today in the second rubber against Slovenian’s Blaz Kavcic, ranked 105 in the world.

“I am very excited to be playing for South Africa again,” said Roelofse. “I am truly honoured to play for my country, I feel confident on the clay, and am ready to give of my best.”

De Jager said after a week’s training he felt Roelofse was the best option as the No. 2. “I’ve came to the decision because Roelofse has been playing well in recent months, and then at training this week on the clay he was really impressive,” said the coach. “That’s why I selected Roelofse and I have confidence that he’ll do the business.”

As expected, Raven Klaasen has been consigned to doubles duty and will partner Roelofse.

“I see this as an opportunity to nail down the tie in the doubles match on Saturday,” said Klaasen. “Hopefully by the time we play the doubles, South Africa will be leading so that we can sew up the result before the start of Sunday’s reverse singles.”

De Jager said like De Voest he was surprised that Zemlja was not picked for the singles. “To not play your highest world ranked player on the opening day was a surprise. Apparently Zemlja is injured and that’s maybe why the Slovenian captain opted not to play him. Regardless, my team are ready and upbeat and will no doubt do their country proud this weekend.”

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