Johannesburg - Tennis South Africa (TSA) on Tuesday named the country's Davis Cup squad to play Ireland from July 17-19.
The Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 playoff tie, to be played at the Irene Country Club in Pretoria, is crucially important for both sides as the winner will prevent relegation to Group 3 in 2016.
With South Africa’s top ranked singles and doubles players, Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen, not available for the tie, TSA has opted to name a six-man squad for the tie of which four players have been nominated as per the Davis Cup rules to the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
The players named for the squad are Tucker Vorster, Fritz Wolmarans, Dean O’Brien, Ruan Roelofse, Nik Scholtz and Lloyd Harris.
Vorster, Wolmarans, O’Brien and Roelofse have been nominated as the four-man team to the ITF however captain Earl Grainger may make changes to the four players named up to an hour before the official draw on the Thursday ahead of the tie.
“I have kept all my options open,” said Grainger. “It’s been a tough call on naming only four players so my best option is to have a squad of six at Irene Country Club and to see who adapts well to the conditions and impresses in the week leading up to the tie.”
Grainger said due to the impressive form of O’Brien and Roelofse, who are playing as a team on the ATP Tour, he had decided to name the duo as his specialist doubles team. “Dean and Ruan recently decided to focus on doubles and teamed up together the two have done impressively well of late, reaching the semi-finals and final of Challenger events. Dean is our third highest world ranked doubles player after Klaasen and Anderson, with Ruan just behind Dean on the rankings. The doubles rubber has always proved to be important so naming a specialist doubles team was always in the mix.”
Grainger recently travelled to Zimbabwe to see the form of South Africans playing in the Futures events there. Harris, who won back to back titles (Mozambique and Zimbabwe) in his debut as a professional, is the in-form player at the moment.
“With Kevin Anderson announcing he is not available indefinitely for Davis Cup duty we need to focus on the next generation of players to represent South Africa. Harris has a great promising game and needs to be exposed to Davis Cup competition and with his current form made the squad. Scholtz, like Harris is a powerful up and coming player, has played Davis Cup before so was selected.”
Grainger said Vorster was playing some great tennis and was very impressed with his attitude. “In Zimbabwe I watched Tucker and spent some quality time with him. I was very impressed with the way he used his game and his positivity which will install well for the upcoming tie.”
Grainger said he was planning on continuing the impressive team unity that had been displayed in the last tie played away against Turkey in March. “Although we lost to Turkey 2-3, the whole South African team showed unbelievable passion and pride throughout the tie. They fought hard for the country and I want to continue with this tradition. It’s all about coming together as a team and not individual strength.”
Klaasen said he could not make the tie due to World Team Tennis scheduling.
“Unfortunately I won't be available for the next tie against Ireland. I am really sad not to be part of this one especially given it's a home tie. I want to take this opportunity of saying good luck to Earl and the squad and as always Davis Cup will have my full support.”
The South African squad named is as follows:
Tucker Vorster (singles 389; doubles 476)
Ruan Roelofse (singles 426; doubles 179)
Fritz Wolmarans (singles 497)
Dean O’Brien (doubles 171)
Nik Scholtz (singles 550; doubles 628)
Lloyd Harris (singles 736)