It was a tough opening day for Team SA in their Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group 1 playoff tie in Lisbon on Friday. Hosts Portugal made the most of the home conditions and led South Africa 2-0 after day one.
Portuguese No 2 Pedro Sousa gave his team a dream start when he needed just under one hour to beat South African No 1 Lloyd Harris 6-1, 6-1. It wasn’t that Harris was struggling, it is just that Sousa was playing some incredible tennis that even he admitted to being impressed by.
‘It was a good win for me. Lloyd is in great form and has had a few really good months on the tour but here I grew up, I know the court well and felt very comfortable on my home court. I played well, very well,’ said Sousa.
Sousa started strongly, breaking Harris twice in the first four games of the match. Harris finally got on to the scoreboard in the fifth game when he held serve but it was a little too late as Sousa closed out the set 6-1. In the second set, Sousa broke into the fourth and sixth game, winning the set 6-1.
Harris gave credit to Sousa after the loss. ‘I never expected that. Actually, I was playing well but wow! Pedro was not missing and every time I felt I was getting into some sort of rhythm on the clay, Pedro came back better. He is a fine player and is really in good form. It was tough out there.’
In the second rubber, Nik Scholtz started well. He broke his higher ranked opponent Joao Sousa’s serve in the opening game and was 30-0 up serving when Sousa came back strong and broke back to level the match at 1-1. Sousa proved his class in beating a fighting Scholtz 6-3, 6-2 to give Portugal their second win on the opening day.
‘I wish I could just go back to that moment when I was break up and leading 30-0 on my serve, I may have done things just a little different,’ said Scholtz. ‘I realised in the second game I had broken Sousa, ranked in the top 50 globally and was in a real good position. The moment got too much for me and my focus was lost.’
Marcos Ondruska, the South African captain, said that credit needs to be given to the Portuguese for making a great start. ‘It was never going to be easy but honestly we were hoping to win at least one of the two opening day singles rubbers. Now we are 0-2 down, but it’s far from over.’
On Saturday, the doubles rubber will be played and Raven Klaasen and his longtime Davis Cup partner Ruan Roelofse will be flying the South African flag. They play Joao Sousa and Gastao Elias. Klaasen and Roelofse go into their eighth rubber on Saturday unbeaten.
Photo: Nic Scholtz in action in his singles match. Supplied.