ATP Tour

Long shot for SA to reach Davis Cup Finals

SA Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska (Photo supplied by BLD Communications)
SA Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska (Photo supplied by BLD Communications)

Cape Town - Hanging by a thread might be an under-statement, but a statement released earlier on Monday from the ITF's Davis Cup Committee stoically proclaimed South Africa was not yet entirely out of the running for a place in next year's initial 18-nation Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

However, in order to secure a place in an innovative event the ITF hopefully see as developing into something akin to world cup tournaments similar to those in soccer, rugby and cricket for the world's widely competed and long-standing annual team tennis tournament, a succession of doubtful propositions favouring South Africa will all have to materialise.

Most decisive and uncompromising of these requirements will be the need of a victory over Portugal in the Euro-Africa Group One relegation Davis Cup playoff later this month, with an away defeat in this tricky encounter obliterating any chance of South Africa making it to the historic revised tournament in Spain.

But while a victory over Portugal would keep South Africa's slim hopes alive, it would not as much as even ensure a place among the 24 countries who will play for 12 places in the new Davis Cup Finals format, with 22 of the participants already named without South Africa and Israel, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Finland and Romania all at this time better placed to secure the last two places that have been left open for countries from the Euro-Africa Group One Zone.

"These positions will go to two countries from the Euro-Africa segment who have not yet been named for the February qualifying round," explained the statement from the ITF, "and will be based on the new Davis Cup rankings that will be formulated and announced after the relegation games later this month."

Well and good for South Africa, this might seem to some extent, except for the situation whereby South Africa are presently rated 45th in the Davis Cup rankings and Israel, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Finland and Romania all have a better ranking at this time.

And, to make matters even tougher to contemplate, the two final nations who secure places in the qualifying round will be pitted against either a potentially formidable Canadian team or the canny, under-rated Kazakhstan squad.

The ITF, in the meantime, have confirmed this year's Davis Cup finalists, France and Croatia, and the beaten semi-finalists, the United States and Spain, as automatic qualifiers for next year's Davis Cup Finals extravaganza, as well as two wildcard nominations in Great Britain and Argentina, who are recent winners of the Davis Cup.

The qualifying round early in February will consist of games between Brazil and Belgium; Uzbekistan and Serbia; Australia and Bosnia; India and Italy; Germany and Hungary; Switzerland and Russia; Kazakhstan and a Euro-Africa nation still to be announced; Czech Republic and Netherlands; Colombia and Sweden; Austria and Chile; Canada and a Euro-Africa nation still to be announced; and China and Japan.

As for South Africa, beating Portugal and thereby avoiding relegation to Euro-Africa Group Two will be a crucial step in the right direction, but one which may depend on the country's number nine world-ranked Kevin Anderson ending his seven-year, self-imposed exile the Davis Cup.

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