Both South African and Israeli Davis Cup captains say this weekend’s crucial Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 tie at the Irene Country Club is evenly poised.
Marcos Ondruska, the KIA SA Davis Cup captain said that the Israeli team were a well-balanced side of youth and experienced, and would be tough competition come the weekend. “I know the Israeli side well and they have some really good players in their mix. They seem to be adapting well to the conditions and their number one, Dudi Sela, is a respected seasoned player having been in the world’s top 100 for the past few years. To add their top – doubles player, Jonathan Erlich is a Grand Slam title winner so it’s going to be a tough competition” said Ondruska.
However, Ondruska said that his team were feeling comfortable, confident and working hard in their preparation. “The court is playing a bit slower than we hoped, but the ball is bouncing high and as more tennis is played on the court the speed of the court should improve. My boys have put in some solid practice and overall are feeling good.“
Harel Levy, who is only in his second tie as the Israeli captain said that his team had been warmly welcomes to the country by Tennis South Africa (TSA) and the local Jewish community. “My team and I could not be happier the way we have been received and that has made us feel very welcome and comfortable. Also the court is playing very much in our favour, so all is good in my camp.”
Both Ondruska and Levy agreed the new two day format (Friday and Saturday) and best of three tie-break sets instead of five tie-break sets per rubber would be interesting. “It’s something new for both teams and very unknown how each team will adapt” said Levy. “I will only be able to tell you after the tie if I like or dislike the trial format.”
Ondruska said that the new format would mean a quick and solid start to the tie would be important. “With the shorter matches, it’s important that my team make a quick and positive start. There is no more time to think things through, three tie-break sets will go by much quicker and the team that starts strong has the better chance.”
Both captains also welcomed the new rule that five nominated players could be played over the weekend instead of the previous four player rule. “It is great that we have the option to play all five players whenever we want over both days. I have some depth in my side, and with the rule I can weigh up my options if required” said Ondruska.
South Africa and Israel have played each other once before back in 2001. The tie played in Ramat Hasharon, Israel was won by Israel 3-2. Ironically, both Ondruska and Levy were both playing that tie for their respective countries and now face each other as captains on the opposite side of the net.
The tie will be played at the Irene Country Club in Centurion, Pretoria. There will be two singles rubbers played on Friday (2 Feb) from 16h00 after the opening ceremony, and on Saturday (3 Feb) play starts at 11h00 with the doubles rubber followed by the two reverse singles.
The nominated teams;
KIA SOUTH AFRICA: Lloyd Harris, Nik Scholtz, Ruan Roelofse, Raven Klaasen, Tucker Vorster, with Marcos Ondruska (Captain)
ISRAEL: Dudi Sela, Edan Leshem, Egor Smilansky, Daniel Cukierman, Jonathan Erlich, with Harel Levy (Captain)