Pretoria - South Africa will go guns blazing into their Euro/Africa Zone Group 2 Davis Cup tie against Monaco from at the Irene Country Club.
The tie takes place from January 31 to February 2.
Tennis South Africa announced a strong squad to take on the Monegasques, comprising Izak van der Merwe, Rik de Voest, Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse and Nikala Scholtz. The team will be captained by John-Laffnie de Jager.
De Jager will be forced to trim the squad down to four players by the start of the tie, but he does at least have a plethora of riches to choose from.
Despite South Africa’s top player Kevin Anderson not making himself available for the tie, De Jager said he was pleased that Izak van der Merwe had recovered from injury and was available.
“I am happy that Izak has recovered from his injury and this can be a good start for him” said De Jager.
It was in April of last year that Van der Merwe got a chronic injury from overuse due to playing an excessive amount of tennis.
“I have not played any events since surgery (a small part of the heel bone was removed) on the 18th of April last year. Davis Cup will be my first event back. I have been training for the last few months preparing hard for this tie.”
“The recovery from my heel injury has been a slow process but it has gone very well. Over the last few weeks I made great progress on the practice court. It has taken a lot of patience but I look forward to getting back on the Davis cup team and competing on the ATP Tour,” said Van der Merwe.
The tie will be a special one for Rik de Voest who will be playing international tennis for the first time at his home courts in Irene where he started the game at the age of 5.
"It is going to be amazing to play a Davis Cup tie at Irene Country Club," said De Voest." I believe the exposure to international players and the national team will further benefit the development and interest in tennis at Irene. Now nearing the end phase of my tennis career and with my long history with the club, it’s going to be extra special to play a Davis Cup tie at the club where it all began for me."
De Jager said that De Voest and Van der Merwe were very good high altitude players and Nikala Scholtz had also enjoyed great success at altitude.
Ruan Roelofse has proved, according to De Jager, to be “a great all round player that can play singles and doubles” giving the captain good choices when naming his final four.
A key member of the team announced is the evergreen Raven Klaasen, the team’s doubles specialist.
Klaasen is playing the best tennis of his career at the age of 31. Ranked 45 on the world doubles ranking, Klaasen is enjoying a solid Australian Open run where he has reached the doubles quarter-finals with his American partner Eric Butorac.
On Monday, Klaasen and Butorac shocked top seeds and the world’s top doubles duo Bob and Mike Bryan of the America. Last year Klaasen captured three titles on the ATP World Tour resulting in him breaking into the top 50 of world doubles for the first time.
"I am very happy with the team to face Monaco. It is a very experienced team I selected,” said De Jager. “Rik, Raven and Izak have more than 20 years of Davis Cup experience between them. It is crucial for us to win this match because we want to be back in Group 1 in 2015.”
“Irene Country Club is a great venue and we hope to get lots of support from the local tennis supporters," added De Jager.
Monaco will be naming their side on Wednesday.
SA team and their current ranking positions: Rik de Voest (169 singles, 273 doubles); Izak van der Merwe (270 protected singles ranking); Ruan Roelofse (733 singles, 196 doubles); Nikala Scholtz (954 singles, 862 doubles) and Raven Klaasen (45 doubles)