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Davis Cup players face Finnish threat
- Updated: April 29, 2010
Finland will be relying on the prowess of world No 64 Jarkko Nieminen to thwart the South African onslaught in the upcoming Euro/Africa Zone Group I Davis Cup tie to be played at the Groenkloof Tennis Stadium from May 7-9.
The Finnish tennis federation has named their strongest possible team for the tie, headed up by the left-handed Nieminen who will be joined by Henri Kontinen (ranked 262), Timo Nieminen (ranked 352) and Harri Heliovaara (ranked 503). The team will be captained by Kim Tiilikainen.
Nieminen will be the highest ranked singles player at the tie as the South African team will comprise Izak van der Merwe, ranked 222, Rik de Voest (280) and Raven Klaasen (390) with Wesley Moodie a specialist doubles player. ┬á ┬á┬á
On rankings alone the visitors will have a huge advantage over the local team although Nieminen did fail badly at the SA Open in February where he blew out in the opening round. However, the Finnish team are sure to arrive well ahead of time next week in order to acclimatise to the altitude.
As far as the doubles rubber is concerned, John-Laffnie de Jager’s men undoubtedly have the edge. Moodie is ranked at nine, De Voest 80, Van der Merwe 210 and Klaasen 254. Nieminen, who did reach the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open, is currently at 64 with Kontinen at 265. Heliovaara is ranked 531 with Timo Nieminen at 550.
A lot will depend on how South Africa deal with their No 2 player because without world No 88 Kevin Anderson in the tier, the South Africans will battle to beat Nieminen. Anderson defeated the No 1 Finn in their away tie to help South Africa to victory but De Voest went down 4-6 3-6 5-7.
However, the current form of Van der Merwe, who recently reached the final of the Sowetan Open, could help the SA team.
Nieminen, who in 2005 achieved his highest singles ranking of 13, began playing tennis at age four with his parents. In 1999 he won the Junior US Open title, beating Denmark’s Kristian Pless in the final. In 2001 Bjorn Borg watched his Stockholm Open final and said: “I think he could become a great personality”.
He has a 40-17 career Davis Cup record (31-8 in singles) in 22 ties. His wife, Anu Weckstrom, is the No 1 badminton player in Finland and in 2004, both members of Finland’s Olympic team.
Tickets for the Groenkloof showdown are available at Computicket and prices are R50 for Friday May 7, R40 for Saturday May 8 and R50 for the final match day, Sunday May 9.
Story courtesy of BLD Communications