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Rik starts Cup challenge
- Updated: July 8, 2011
Experienced Davis Cup campaigner Rik de Voest was drawn to play first in South Africa’s opening singles match of the Euro-Africa Group One tie against the Netherlands in Potchefstroom starting on Friday.
De Voest will play Dutch No 1 Robin Haase followed by Kevin Anderson against Thomas Schoorel in the second match on Friday, reports Sapa. The winner of the tie will advance to the World Group play-offs. While De Voest and Anderson will each play two singles matches, Izak van der Merwe will partner Wesley Moodie in the doubles.
“We’re all part of a team and whoever was picked, we were going to support that decision,” said De Voest. “The captain showed confidence in me by picking me to play the singles match. I do have a little bit more experience and, the last five or six weeks, I’ve been playing good tennis and I’m just trying to take that confidence forward and get a good result at the end.”
Before the draw, Van der Merwe may have been favourite to play the singles as he is five spots above De Voest in the ATP rankings at 124th. “It was a tough decision between Rik (de Voest) and Izak (van der Merwe) but I just feel that right now Rik is playing the better tennis,” said South African team captain John-Laffnie de Jager. “He has more experience and he’s a better match-up against the Dutch guys.”
The SA team will be favourites for the tie enjoying home advantage and with the inclusion of Anderson, ranked 35th in the world, in their side. Anderson’s ranking is considerably higher than that of Dutch No 1, Haase who is 53rd in the world.
“The conditions will play a huge role and it’s been cold here,” said De Jager. “Hopefully, it will warm up over the weekend and be as warm as it is normally and fasten up the court a little bit. The first match with Rik and Robin (Haase) will be very important, because if Kevin wins we can clinch the tie on Saturday.
“But then, Davis Cup is not played on paper and funny things can happen so we’re not taking anything for granted.”
The doubles could prove crucial if the singles are split between the teams and Van der Merwe will feel the pressure partnering the veteran Moodie for the first time.
Moodie and Belgian partner Dick Norman, seeded 11th, defeated Van der Merwe and Treat Conrad Huey of the Philippines 7-5, 7-6 in the first round of the Wimbledon doubles, a couple of weeks ago.
“Mentally everyone is well prepared, and physically we’ve spent time in the gym and all the guys are looking strong,” said De Jager.
Anderson, who returns to the team after an absence of over two years, welcomed the team atmosphere. “It’s so different when you play Davis Cup because normally tennis is such an individual sport,” said Anderson.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation. It’s going to be a tough tie and I’m pretty sure the Dutch will be ready to go, but so will we.”
The doubles match will be played on Saturday starting at noon with Moodie and Van der Merwe against the Dutch pair of Jesse Huta Galung and Igor Sijsling.
Sunday will see the reverse of the day one singles with Anderson playing Haase and De Voest taking on Schoorel.