Recently reappointed South African Davis Cup captain Marcos Ondruska, who faces his toughest challenge yet in the Euro-Africa Group One tie against Israel in February, views Israeli number one, 32-year-old Dudi Sela, as “a serious threat”.
“He is an experienced veteran who has played for many years in all conditions around the globe,” added Ondruska, “with his current world ranking of 67th and career-best 29th suggesting it won’t be easy to outfox him.”
In the circumstances, Ondruska was unable to provide any reassuring information that South African number one, 14th-ranked Kevin Anderson, would be ending a seven-year self-imposed exile from Davis Cup competition against Israel.
“Discussions with Kevin are ongoing,” explained Ondruska. “He is open to the idea of Davis Cup participation. But it is tricky with his schedule and personal goals to find a window.
“However, with the new changes to the Davis Cup format, we are a step closer.”
However, with Israel’s Davis Cup players considerably higher ranked than a South African squad without Anderson, it is evident enough that the balance of power in the forthcoming tie would rest heavily on the participation or otherwise of South Africa’s number one.
Apart from Sela, burgeoning 20-year-old Israeli prospect, Edan Leshem, is currently ranked 249th in the world, higher than possible South African selections Lloyd Harris (289th) and Nik Scholtz (326th).
As to the delicate issue of choosing the venue for the Israeli tie, which is South Africa’s prerogative in this instance, Tennis South Africa (TSA) has made no final pronouncement.
The choice would seem to rest between the Irene Country Club, where recent Davis Cup matches have been held, or in view of the greater public interest in this instance, switching to a more central, but still high-altitude venue in Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Meanwhile, Ondruska’s reappointment as SA team captain has generally been welcomed and even been regarded as a formality after he guided the squad to promotion this year.
But the acid test of the captain who was a South African stalwart in the higher echelons of the Davis Cup as a player, will now emerge in the tougher Euro-Africa Group One segment – one step below the elite World Group of the competition.