Cape Town - It was a sombre atmosphere over the Irene Country Club in Pretoria late Saturday afternoon as the South Africa Davis Cup side lost to Israel in the Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group 1.
Credit to the visitors who came from 1-2 down to beat South Africa 3-2 which secures them a spot in Euro/Africa Group 1 in 2019.
South Africa will face either Sweden, Ukraine or Portugal in a relegation playoff in September with the winner remaining in Group 1 and the loser relegated to Group 2.
South Africa and Israel were 1-1 Saturday morning after Lloyd Harris opened up for South Africa on Friday beating Edan Leshem 7-5 6-4 followed by Dudi Sela giving Israel the equalising point when he beat Nik Scholtz in a marathon rain delayed three set battle 6-1 6-7 (1) 7-5.
In the first rubber played on Saturday, South Africa’s doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse overcame a strong challenge from Israeli’s Jonathan Erlich and Dudi Sela. The South Africans came from a set down to win 5-7 6-4 6-4. Klaasen and Roelofse remain unbeaten in Davis Cup.
With South Africa leading the tie 2-1, only one of the two reverse singles were required to be won to clinch the tie.
But Israel were having nothing of it. In the battle of the number ones, Dudi Sela showed his “top 100 ranking” class to beat Lloyd Harris 7-6 (2) 6-1. Harris competed well in the opening set but seemed bothered in the breaker and second set and admitted he wasn’t himself but gave credit to Sela who he said was a “good friend and a hero” in his eyes.
With the tie levelled at 2-2, the pressure was on Nik Scholtz (South Africa) and Edan Leshem (Israel) to deliver the victory for their respective countries.
The higher ranked Leshem prevailed and delivered the win for Israel when he overcame a strong challenge from Scholtz, winning 6-3 7-5.
A disappointed Marcos Ondruska, captain of the SA team said, “things were running very well being 2-1 up is significantly better than being 1-2 down but experience but from experience I knew it was far from over. To lose like this is tough.”
“Israel were serious, they came well prepared, were on a mission and took every opportunity to win” continued Ondruska.
Harel Levy, the captain of Israel said, “obviously we are happy with the win and credit to my players who delivered. Dudi Sela had to play 8 sets in less than 24 hours and that was a big ask. I was hoping after the doubles we would need only one point but we lost the doubles, Dudi only had 30 minutes to shower, eat and recover - and hats off to Dudi for coming back on court and beating Harris the way he did.”