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SA jolted by Georgia and need to pick themselves up against GBR

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By Mark Etheridge

They may be down but the South African team doing battle at the Fed Cup Euro Africa Group 1 tie in Israel is certainly not out!
A 3-0 loss to Eastern European opposition Georgia on Wednesday means that if SA are to have a chance of promotion at the weekend, they have to get the better of the impressive Great Britain team in their second match on Thursday.
Madrie le Roux went down 6-3 6-1 to Ekaterine Gorgodze, then it was Chanel Simmonds who lost out to Sofia Shapatava 7-5 6-4 and then the doubles combo of Ilze Hattingh and Michelle Sammons also went down in straight sets, 6-4 7-6 (6) to Gorgodze and Oksana Kalashnikova.
Simmonds, a member of Team South Africa at the 2011 African Games in Maputo, Mozambique, took time out to share with Road to Rio 2016, how the first day’s play went.
‘Madrie played as No2… she plays very aggressively and her opponent just made an extra ball or two. The first set was close with many deuce/advantage games and Madrie made just too many unforced errors.
‘Ekaterine defiantly got some confidence and played very well in the second set. The combination of Madrie making errors and her opponent gaining confidence caused the set to be very one-sided.
‘Then I played as No1 and lost 7-5 6-4. My opponent, Sofia was also very aggressive and hits flat. We had many long rallies and long games. She made a lot of errors but at the same time also forced me to make errors.
‘I was put under pressure a lot and had to scramble and run for every ball. It worked at times to make her hit that one extra ball.
‘I think she played a bit better on the important points so that was the only difference. As for doubles, Ilze and Michelle’s opponents were very strong and experienced. I know one of the girls is just concentrating on playing doubles and about 60 in the world. We were up 5-2 in the second but the girls lost a bit of concentration and played a few poor points.
‘So all in all not a good start for the team but we had a talk after the matches and our coach Earl Grainger pointed out all our positives and was very happy with our effort and fight.
‘Now we play England. It’s going to be a challenge because they have even stronger players than Georgia, but with this game of tennis, anything can happen. We are defiantly the under dogs so you never know, we could come out and cause a big upset.’
Reflecting on her surroundings, Simmonds went on to explain: ‘We arrived in Eilat on 30 January. We started our first day of practice the next day so had three days to acclimatise. The conditions are very slow and it can get windy too which makes it difficult.
‘Being in the Africa/Europe group 1 is a lot more grand than when we played in Group 2. The hotel is nicer, food is better and we get treated very well.’
On the flipside though is the level of competition. ‘It’s also very intimidating in the group. On paper, we are one of the weaker teams here and many other countries have top 50 and top 100 players.’

Picture of Le Roux and coach Earl Grainger courtesy of Allan Karam


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