South Africa have gained the draw they wanted for the critical Euro-Africa Group 2 Davis Cup tennis tie against Monaco which starts at what has been termed Monte Carlo’s “Millionaires’ Playground” on Friday.
South Africa’s number one Kevin Anderson will square up against Monaco’s Benjamin Balleret in the opening game at 11am and number two Rik De Voest faces Monaco number one Jean-Rene Lisnard.
“While the draw might not have been crucial on this occasion” said South African team captain John-Laffnie de Jager, “Kevin has played the opening match in the past two successful ties against Finland and Denmark and come away with morale-boosting victories – and we are confident he will continue the trend.”
De Jager described the tie that could earn South Africa a place in next year’s Euro-Africa Group 1 segment – only one below the prestigious World Group – as “a must-win opportunity which we dare not miss.
“All the players are optimistic and in good shape,” added the South African captain, “and I have no doubt we would have the beating of the Monaco team on any other surface, but here at the Monte Carlo Country club the ultra-slow court provides an unknown factor.
“Both Kevin and Rik feel at home on the clay,” said De Jager, “and they have been hard at work here practising for more than a week. But they are well aware they are playing against clay court specialists, with Lisnard, in particular, boasting a number of notable scalps on this surface.” Theoretically, however, the South Africans have an edge over their Monaco opponents, despite Anderson slipping back slightly to 119th in the world rankings and De Voest in 166th position.
Lisnard is ranked 229th and Balleret at a modest 448th is preferred to the 301st ranked Thomas Oger. De Jager has nominated big-serving Izak van der Merwe in place of the injured Wesley Moodie as Jeff Coetzee’s partner for a doubles clash on Saturday that could decide the five-match rubber if the teams emerge level after the opening day’s play.