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It’s SA v India again

A twist of fate brings South African and Indian tennis together again.

After an absence of 11 years, South Africa have a chance of returning to Davis Cup’s elite World Group following Tuesday’s play-off draw in London.

South Africa’s only Davis Cup ‘triumph’ came way back in 1974 when India refused to honour their commitment as an act of protest against apartheid and South Africa became Davis Cup title holders for the first and only time.

This week’s draw was just about the best South Africa could have hoped for when the composition of the 16 teams matched them against India.

India were the worst-ranked of the eight seeded countries who went into the draw, but absolutely vitally the venue for the September 18-20 play-off will almost certainly be at a favourable high altitude venue in Gauteng.

Still, SA Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager was over the moon when he heard the news – tempering his delight with the observation that ‘ India have one of the best doubles combinations in world tennis in Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi and should not be taken for granted.’

De Jager pointed out that apart from all the players who gained South Africa’s 10th successive Davis Cup victory in the 5-0 demolition of Serbia in the Euro-Africa Group One tie in Soweto over the weekend, the country’s top player, Kevin Anderson, was also expected to make himself available.

‘India have a couple of very useful singles players in Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj, who with world rankings of 140th and 163rd respectively are in a similar category to those of our leading players, Anderson and Rik De Voest,’ said the SA Davis Cup captain.

‘ But what should give us the edge is home-court advantage and what will hopefully be substantial crowd support.’

De Jager was quick to point out that playing India at home was “a lot better than having to travel to Europe to play powerhouses France or Switzerland and being confronted by the likes of Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – something that could quite easily have emerged from the draw.”