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Another big win for SA

South African tennis came a step closer to returning to the Davis Cup’s elite World Group after a 5-0 win over Belarus at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in┬á Soweto at the weekend.

The match was a Euro-Africa Group One tie and South Africa now face a play-off in September.

It was South Africa’s third successive 5-0 whitewash victory in the competition and the 10th success in a row for captain John-Laffnie de Jager and his loyal players, who had all waived the opportunity of furthering their individual ATP standings to represent their country.

However another meagre crowd of  less than 400 turned up to witness the final stages.

Belarus number one Uladzimir Ignatik had to withdraw with injury, and Raven Klaasen was brought in to further his experience at this level, scoring a 6-1 6-4 win over Siarhei Betau while Izak van der Merwe powered his way to a 6-1 6-3 success against Andrei Karatchenia.

The hapless Belarussians failed to win a single set and suffered the same fate as Denmark and Macedonia, who had also lost recent Davis Cup matches against South Africa without winning a match.

But it will get harder from here on in for South Africa. In the play-offs, South Africa go into the hat on Tuesday to discover which of 15 potential opponents they will face in September. Tennis powerhouses as France, Serbia and Switzerland and players of the calibre of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga loom as possible adversaries.

‘A crucial factor will be to receive a home tie in the play-off,” said De Jager, ‘so that we can utilise our advantage of playing at high altitude. But, no matter what the draw, the going at this final hurdle is going to be difficult to overcome’

De Jager will also be faced with the tricky issue of whether to recall Kevin Anderson and/or Wesley Moodie, who have made themselves unavailable for recent Davis Cup matches to achieve their personal tennis ambitions.

And, while two recent breakthrough international tournaments in Soweto were highly successful in cementing a launching pad for future development, it is also clear that Soweto is not yet ready at this stage of its tennis affinity to stage Davis Cup ties. Bringing home this point forcibly was the assessment of Belarus stalwart Max Mirnyi in stating : ‘We get bigger crowds in Belarus for the Davis Cup team’s training sessions than we got for the match here.’