Kevin Anderson gave South Africa the lead on the first day of its Davis Cup world group play-off against Croatia in Potchefstroom on Friday.
However, the hosts conceded the second match as Izak van der Merwe retired hurt.
While Anderson prevailed in four sets over Croatian number two Ivan Dodig, it was the surprise retirement of Van der Merwe which handed the visitors their vital point.
Marin Cilic was leading the match 6-0 6-0, when Van der Merwe left the court with an injured wrist. “I really didn’t see it coming,” said Van der Merwe. “I started the match with a little bit of discomfort in my wrist and I thought that as the match went on, with some painkillers, it would get better.
“But every time I miss-hit a ball, it would be quite painful.”
The teams are now locked at 1-1 heading into the doubles rubber on Saturday.
Anderson, who turned in a strong performance in the first two sets of his match, played with a strapped left knee. “The knee felt okay, but I’ve had a little bit of pain over the summer. The first two sets were great, then I had a pretty tough service game in the third [set] to get broken.”Even though I had some chances, I couldn’t break him back.”
Anderson went on to lose the third set to Dodig, did not feel as if he had lost his grip on the match.
“When I was down a break in the fourth, I always felt I could stay back and relax, and a chance would come my way.
“After I’d broken him, I thought I would have a pretty good shot at breaking him again. Going into the [tie] breaker, I played pretty solid and that’s what you need to do.
“I felt I was hitting the ball well enough to definitely win the breaker, it was just important to play it one point at a time and get some first serves in,” he said.
Non-playing team captain John-Laffnie de Jager was pleased with his number one player, but concerned over Van der Merwe’s injury. “Kev played really well today, it was just a pity about Izak,” said De Jager.
“He played so well during the week, we were really confident he could go out and surprise Cilic. It’s good for us to go into the doubles one-all, but it’s going to be tough. There’s no easy way of winning these ties. Right now we have to see what happens with Izak.”
Croatia’s non-playing team captain Goran Prpic said he would make changes to his doubles team.
“We’re going to change the doubles for sure, but who’s going to play we will decide by 12 [midday] tomorrow,” said Prpic.
The home team could also be forced to change its singles line-up with Van der Merwe in doubt and experienced Davis cup player Rik de Voest in the team. “If Izak can’t play, Rik will play,” said De Jager.
“We’re very fortunate to have someone with so much Davis Cup experience coming in. We’re very comfortable about putting him in and playing the second singles.”