Plain Sailing for SA Davis Cup Team
19 July 2008
After wishing Madiba a happy 90th birthday on court following the opening ceremony on Friday, the South African Davis Cup team got off to a dream start in their BNP Paribas Euro/Africa Zone Group 2 tie with Denmark at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, taking a two-match lead with three to play.
PLAIN SAILING FOR SA DAVIS CUP TEAM
DENMARK IN DIRE STRAITS
Johannesburg, 18th July 2008 - After wishing Madiba a happy 90th birthday on court following the opening ceremony on Friday, the South African Davis Cup team got off to a dream start in their BNP Paribas Euro/Africa Zone Group 2 tie with Denmark at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, taking a two-match lead with three to play.
This means that at 2-0 up, SA captain John-Laffnie de Jager's team need just one more win - in Saturday's doubles match or in the two reverse singles Sunday - to triumph. This would qualify SA to meet victors of the Algeria/Monaco match currently taking place in Monte Carlo to earn promotion to Group 1. As per the draw, SA will play away in that match, which is scheduled for September 19 to 21.
SA number one Kevin Anderson kicked off on the specially built Emperors Palace court and looked a little nervous, not having things all his own way against pumped-up Danish number two Martin Pedersen. Andersen got stronger, though, and went on to win 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 6-2 while SA number two Rik de Voest swept Danish number one Frederik Nielsen aside 6-3 6-2 6-2 in a flawless display. Johannesburg-born Anderson was not happy with his serve and looked a bit nervous playing Davis Cup for the first time in SA and in front of a home crowd that included friends and family. "I didn't serve well at the start and if you get tight at altitude you quickly lose control, but once I got my rhythm and feel back, things went nicely," Anderson said.
Reflecting on his match with De Voest, a disconsolate Nielsen said it was his worst-ever performance. "Nothing worked and against a class player like Rik you need to be on top of your game." De Voest was pleased with the way he varied his game. "I mixed things up nicely, serving flat then kicking out wide, while Fred's strength, his serve, was off the boil and it helped me get everything back. It's great when the SA number two beats their number one as it puts us in a good position." It wouldn't be an exaggeration to describe Denmark Davis Cup captain John Larsen's Friday as extremely frosty. "What can I say, trailing 2-0 is awful, the worst possible situation, as now we have to win three in a row."
In contrast, Larsen's counterpart "J-L" de Jager battled to keep the smile off his face, saying it was the first time he had been 2-0 up after the first day, but his sober assessment of the SA players made one realise that the tie is not over just yet. "It wasn't Kevin's best match but as he progressed he got better and at the same time Martin [Pedersen] raised his game and made life difficult. Rik, though, played quite brilliantly and I felt Fred was never able to get into the game."
If SA can keep the momentum going, the tie could be wrapped up Saturday afternoon, rendering Sunday's reverse singles meaningless. Nevertheless, Sunday's matches still have to be played. The impartial fans, seeking to maintain the intensity of the tennis will be hoping Denmark win the doubles, thus setting up Sunday's 10 am match between the number ones as the key encounter.
“We are very happy with our opening day” commented Ian Smith, Tournament Director. “We had a capacity crowd, a good start and celebrating Madiba’s birthday with the huge cake with 90 candles that hosts Emperors Palace had specially baked including everyone from the players to the fans singing Happy Birthday made it more special.”
1-Kevin Anderson (Rsa) bt 2-Martin Pedersen (Den) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 6-2; 2-Rik de Voest (Rsa) bt 1-Frederik Nielsen (Den) 6-3 6-2 6-2.
SA lead Davis Cup tie 2-0 with three to play.
Saturday 1.30 pm: Jeff Coetzee and Izak van der Merwe (RSA) vs Neilsen and Rasmus Norby (Den).
Sunday 10 am: 1-Anderson (Rsa) vs 1-Nielsen (Den).
Followed by: 2-De Voest (RSA) vs 2-Pedersen (Den).