ATP Tour

Anderson’s Davis Cup no-show a blow for SA tennis

Kevin Anderson (AP)
Kevin Anderson (AP)

Cape Town - The nostalgic sentiment expressed by the late Abe Segal that he would have "given an arm and a leg" to represent South Africa in the Davis Cup has assumed a further degree of bitter irony and credence following the stunning relegation debacle against Portugal over the weekend in Lisbon.

The engaging Segal, of course, went on to represent South Africa in Davis Cup competition whenever conceivably possible. Not so Kevin Anderson whose ongoing, seven-year boycott of world tennis's premier and historic team competition has come at an incalculable cost to the game in the country - highlighted again by the extent to which the eighth-ranked world player was missed in the humbling 4-0 defeat that will now relegate South Africa to the "third division" Euro-Africa Group Two segment of the competition in 2019.

Could Anderson's presence have made a significant difference in Lisbon? Maybe or maybe not. But it should be noted that Portugal's top player, Joao Sousa, who played such a major role in the tie, went beyond not only competing, but making himself available for both the singles and doubles.

And while many will come to the big-serving Anderson's defence by proclaiming that his admirable and heady success in individual competition - notably in reaching the Grand Slam singles finals at both the US Open and Wimbledon - has in turn impacted positively in no small measure on the sport in South Africa, it provides no valid excuse for his ongoing and vital Davis Cup absence and a reason why he could not have done a job in both these spheres.

After all, every one of the current icons of men's tennis, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - and all those before them - have not only made regular Davis Cup appearances, but helped their countries to annex the prized title at the same time.

And while South Africa can boast at being one of the handful of nations who have achieved the heights of becoming Davis Cup champions - albeit with the help of India withdrawing from the 1974 final against SA as a protest against apartheid - and were at one stage ranked among five of the world's top tennis-playing nations, that kind of stature has systematically disappeared with a current rating of barely in the top 50.

As to the particular instance of Anderson's latest no-show for a critical Davis Cup tie, it is argued he is currently involved in securing another esteemed personal honour by qualifying among the year's top eight players for the first time for the year-end ATP World Finals in London - and he needed to concentrate solely on this objective.

But he is presently in such a strong position to achieve this feat that even if he fails in his last two tournaments on the regular ATP World Tour, namely the Austrian and Paris Opens, he will in all probability still be going to London.

Significantly too, Davis Cup doubles loyalist Raven Klaasen, in a similar position to Anderson, once again put up a stern fight against Portugal after deciding to play in Lisbon, yet he will also be playing this week in the Swiss Open with regular partner Michael Venus to show you can do both - and  still seemingly certain to make a third successive London appearance.

Few, if any, have  seriously questioned that the amiable 6ft 8in Anderson, who has earned an awesome R175 million or so in prize money and will come to be rated among the assortment of top tennis players South Africa has produced, of not being what might be termed a nice guy - and many are puzzled by his contrasting  apparent aversion to playing in the Davis Cup.

It has been suggested in this respect by some that what is deemed as the lack of support from the South African tennis administration in furthering his career during his formative years, resulting in him furthering his career in the United States, is at the root of the issue.

But do two wrongs ever really constitute a right?

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