ATP Tour

Tennis SA ready for Davis Cup protest

Richard Glover (Photo: BLD Communications)
Richard Glover (Photo: BLD Communications)

Cape Town - CEO Richard Glover says Tennis South Africa is aware a protest is being planned outside the Irene Country Club when South Africa take on Israel in a Euro-Africa Group One Davis Cup tie on Friday and Saturday.

READ: SA sports minister to boycott SA v Israel Davis Cup tie

But Glover emphasised that if the protest, ostensibly against the Israelis over the country's conflict in relation to the combustible Palestinian issue, was carried out in a peaceful and law-abiding manner it would be acceptable. 

At the same time, Glover revealed that TSA was co-operating closely with all the relevant authorities over security arrangements just in case.

If this was meant as a veiled warning to any zealots not to take the law into their own hands, Glover added that TSA empathised with the right of law-abiding and peaceful protesters to have their voices heard. 

At the same time, Minister of Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi, has made no bones over the fact that he was out to score a few hefty points of his own and will boycott the event on the outskirts of Pretoria.

Nxesi says he is basing his decision, which will add fuel to the simmering storm, on the numerous objections he has received from groups opposed to Israel over the ongoing Middle East conflict - and his own personal experience of being refused entry to Israel and Palestine in 2012. 

Nxesi, better known as a politician than a sporting authority despite his current position, has not gone as far as calling for the tie to be called off as a number of radical organisations have suggested.

Also, in a statement TSA have dismissed the possibility of this taking place, proclaiming the viewpoint "of almost 200 member nations" affiliated to the International Tennis Federation that "the very nature of sport is meant to bring people together and not divide them." 

TSA also indicated that while they were fully appreciative of the tensions and emotions of many surrounding the Middle East conflict, no purpose would be served by linking the volatile matter to the coming Davis Cup tie.

What has seemingly precipitated the extension of a wider political conflict into the Davis Cup arena by numerous activists is the recent provocative declaration by United States president Donald Trump to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in spite of Palestinian claims to the ancient city as well. 

In spite of worldwide condemnation of Trump blundering into territory where angels have long feared to tread, no sporting action had yet been advocated by any international sporting authorities as a response until Nxesi took it on himself to serve up a blistering delivery - which even the "hawk eye" technology introduced into tennis might have found difficult to evaluate.

At the same time it has been pointed out that on the only occasion South Africa won the Davis Cup in 1973 it was as a result of India refusing to play the final as a protest against apartheid.

Meanwhile, amid the furnace of controversy, with TSA expected to tighten security measures to a maximum at the Irene Club, Israel announced a full-strength line-up for what should be a closely-contested tie - this in contrast to South Africa who will again be without self-exiled number one Kevin Anderson. 

The Israeli squad consists of long-serving Dudi Sela, who at 97th is the highest-ranked world player in either team, the burgeoning  Eden Leshem, Igor Smilansky, Daniel Cukierma and veteran doubles specialist Jonathan Erlich.

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