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Scholtz all set to fire up SA’s Davis Cup tie

Scholtz

Nik Scholtz has been nominated to provide South Africa with the perfect start to their Euro-Africa Group II Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie against Denmark in Aarhus, Denmark, on Friday.

The fact that Thursday’s official draw was held at the world-famous Aarhus Library may just be a clue that the tie may go according to the book (world rankings),. The Danish players have endorsed this view throughout the week by saying KIA South Africa are the favourites.

Overall, the KIA South African players have a better world ranking collectively, which makes them favourites – on paper at least. However, by virtue of Denmark’s Davis Cup history in the last while, Denmark are seeded fourth.

By contrast, South Africa, who have been battling their way up from Davis Cup’s lower tier competitions over the past few years are not seeded, and that may draw the battle on opposite sides of the net into sharp focus –  individual ranking versus team rankings.

In the opening rubber, Scholtz, SA’s No 2 and ranked 402nd in the world, comes up against the vastly experienced Denmark No 1 Frederik Nielsen (557nd), who is well-equipped to spearhead his country’s campaign.

The 34-year-old Nielsen has a Grand Slam pedigree, which is unmatched by any other player in the tie. He has been a singles quarter-finalist in three of the four majors and was a 2012 Wimbledon doubles winner with Britain’s Jonathan Marray.

The 26-year-old Scholtz has one main-draw Major appearance in singles and doubles, but is relishing the prospect of securing a winning start for South Africa.

‘I’m pleased to start because that gives me the chance to provide the team with momentum to carry into the next singles match later on,’ said Scholtz. ‘But really, it doesn’t make a difference for me because I prefer playing first rather than waiting for the first match to finish.

‘The obvious benefit of winning the first rubber is that the No 2 does not have the burden of a “must win” clash and it allows him to play with more freedom.

‘When you play first, your role is vital and could determine the vibe for the rest of the tie, so getting a win first up sets the mood in the camp.’

Nielsen was very composed when approached for comment and was pleased with the way the draw turned out. ‘I’m the senior player in the team and my role is to help give direction, so I’m pleased to be first up,’ said Nielsen, a Davis Cup stalwart with 14 seasons under the belt.

‘Fortunately, we are not burdened by the expectations of winning because there are none in our country. We don’t have fans that are excited by Davis Cup.

‘We know it is going to be tough and I’m saying that because of the rankings of the SA players. We know we have a small chance of winning.’

Nielsen said he was hoping that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) would change the structure of Davis Cup so that players understand how it works.

‘There are so many players who can’t understand the different levels of the competition, so I find myself having to explain where countries fit in the Group I and Group II tier levels, and so forth, and it’s not easily understood.’

The Nielsen-Scholtz rubber will be followed by the second singles match between the Danish No 2 Benjamin Hannestad (1094th) and SA’s No 1, Lloyd Harris (230nd).

The lone doubles match will be played on Saturday, and the tie concludes on Sunday when the reverse singles are played.

Picture of Nielsen and Scholtz ahead of Friday’s opening day of action courtesy of BLD Communications


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