A formidable match by Lloyd Harris to dispose of Denmark’s Fredrik Nielsen with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 win saw South Africa triumph 3-1 in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas third-round play-off at the Ceres Park & Arena, Aarhus, Denmark, on Sunday.
The 3-1 tally after Sunday’s opening singles rubber between Harris and Nielsen gave South Africa an unassailable lead, and the second reverse singles was not played as it would not have had a bearing on the final outcome of the tie.
South Africa have now won promotion to Euro/Africa Group 1, where they will be competing next year, and in the light of the revised Davis Cup rules, the KIA SA Davis Cup team have been assured of a home tie for their first 2018 fixture.
After a tense start to the match, Youth Olympian Harris gradually started imposing himself on the contest with a flurry of finely angled crosscourt shots which often tempted Nielsen to look for down-the-line passing shot winners, but which hardly ever materialised.
As the set wound its course, Harris kept plugging away at the corners and with his serve coming down fierce and fast he laid the platform for a morale-boosting 6-1 first-set win on the back of three breaks of serve.
Nielsen shook off the setback in style as he produced a composed, yet fierce response that on occasions left Harris filled with amazement in the second set. As it turned out, Harris dropped serve thrice and Nielsen raced home 6-1 for a set-all stalemate.
A brief break in play followed as Harris had a time-out to receive medical attention for a hamstring niggle that was bothering him.
Once the 20-year-old Harris was back on the court, he took the fight to 36-year-old Nielsen. At the end of 10 hard-fought games, the South African’s youthful exuberance prevailed over the experience of the 2012 Wimbledon doubles winner, and he nosed ahead with a 6-4 third-set win.
By this time, the momentum was well and truly with Harris and all that was needed to hold his nerve, given the enormity of the task of steering South Africa to promotion in the fourth set.
Nielsen, always the quintessential cool, calm, and collected character, looked capable of rising to the occasion, but instead wilted under Harris’ relentless pressure and dropped serve in the third.
Harris celebrated that slice of good fortune with a flurry of fist pumps which were both emotional and uplifting as he charged through the rest of the set before signing off with another break in the ninth to wrap up a glorious win 6-1, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 for South Africa.
Pictures of Harris and the victorious South African side celebrating victory courtesy of BLD Communciation