Lloyd Harris will open the South African Davis Cup against Portugal, in the Euro African Group 1 playoff tie in Lisbon.
Referee Roberto Ranieri drew the name of Portuguese No 2 Pedro Sousa from the hat first and he will face Harris in the opening match. Nik Scholtz will then follow and play the second singles rubber against Portugal’s No 1 Joao Sousa.
Despite the Portuguese having home-tie advantages, captain Marcos Ondruska said that the draw worked in South Africa’s favour.
‘It doesn’t really make a difference who goes out first but having Lloyd play the opening rubber is what I hoped for,’ Ondruska said. ‘Lloyd plays some really good tennis and if he can win his opener on Friday, it will put SA in a very good position. It will also allow Lloyd to get some extra time for recovery before coming back to play the reverse singles on Saturday.’
Ondruska expects a high standard of tennis to be contested over the two-day tie.
‘The Portuguese have a higher ranked team on paper, but the SA Davis Cup team are ready for the challenge,’ Ondruska added. ‘One never knows, the rankings are quite frankly irrelevant when it comes to the Davis Cup, as we have seen in so many ties from the past where lower ranked players have upset the odds when playing for their country.’
Harris said he was up to the challenge. ‘I feel good going into the tie and really looking forward to getting out there first to get the team started. Obviously, the ideal would be getting the team to a winning start but I’m not going to pressure myself, I’m playing good tennis and look forward to playing for my country.’
On Saturday, procedures start at 10:30am with the doubles rubber, where Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse will fly the SA flag against Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias of Portugal.
Klaasen said the new two-day format and playing the doubles first on the second day makes things exciting.
‘With the doubles rubber being played first on Saturday, it means that the tie will be alive, so the doubles point will be crucial to both teams and Ruan and I hope to continue our unbeaten Davis Cup winning streak on Saturday,’ Klassen said.
The doubles rubber will be followed by the two reverse singles.
In the new format played over the two days instead of the old three-day format, each of the five rubbers will be played over the best of three sets.
The first team to win three rubbers will be declared the tie winner.
Team South Africa: Lloyd Harris, Nik Scholtz, Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse, Philip Henning and captain Marcos Ondruska
Team Portugal: Joao Sousa, Pedro Sousa, Gastao Elias, Joao Domingues and captain Nuno Marques
Photo: Pictured (from left) Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse, Lloyd Harris, Tennis SA president Gavin Crookes, team captain Marcos Ondruska, Nik Scholtz and Philip Henning, by BLD Communications