ATP Tour

SA duo set to secure their spots at ATP Finals

Kevin Anderson (Getty Images)
Kevin Anderson (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen can confidently book their accommodation close to London's sumptuous O2 Stadium for the November period of the ATP Finals when South Africa will almost certainly and uniquely be represented in both the singles and doubles segments.

With only 10 players led by qualifiers Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic currently realistic candidates for the eight singles places in the lucrative R120-million tournament, Anderson appeared a strong candidate in seventh place in the race and well ahead of ninth-placed Kei Nishikori and 10-placed John Isner.

But now an unfortunate injury to prospective third-placed qualifier Juan Martin del Potro in the recently-completed Shanghai Open - he fractured his knee cap in the quarter-finals - has thrown doubts as to whether the amiable Argentinian will be able to play again this year, with his possible withdrawal from the London extravaganza meaning Anderson could be elevated to a near-certain sixth qualifying spot before the run-in to the ATP season's garlanded event and a first-ever such potential final appearance.

Klaasen, with his New Zealand partner, Michael Venus, is even more securely positioned and a betting certainty to make it to the ATP World Doubles Final for the third successive year, having progressed notably as far as the final match of the tournament with Rajeev Ram in 2016 and then appearing briefly as an alternate substitute for one round robin game only with American last year.

Klaasen and Venus are currently placed seventh in the ATP World Finals doubles race, but with Mike Bryan ahead of the South African-New Zealand pairing with two different partners, namely his injured brother, Bob Bryan and Jack Sock, it is in reality a sixth position.

And, what is more, there are realistically only two doubles pairings who can forge ahead of Klassen and Venus, thereby still leaving the South African-New Zealand couple as the eighth-placed qualifiers.

As a bitter and contrasting irony for South African tennis, the do-or-die Euro-Africa Group One relegation encounter against Portugal in Lisbon later this week is in stark contrast, with a possible defeat resulting in relegation to the depths of the Euro-Africa Group Two segment in 2019.

With a squad led by the world's 46th-ranked Joao Sousa enjoying home advantage and the tie on their favoured red clay court, it is the Portuguese who have assumed the role of slight favourites.

And it is the release by Tennis South Africa proclaiming that the Portuguese will be fielding "their strongest-possible line-up" that reflects the paramount cause of South Africa's dilemma, with Anderson, potentially a match-winner, maintaining his seven-year boycott of Davis Cup competition and Klaasen and the burgeoning, 21-year-old Lloyd Harris consequently left  imposing task of guiding the depleted squad to a vital victory with an imposing task on their hands.

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