There were no surprises when the official draw of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Euro/Africa Group 2 tie between South Africa and Luxembourg was conducted Thursday morning at the Irene Dairy Farm in Pretoria. Rumours about a possible late arrival of Luxembourg’s top player Gilles Muller ranked 46 in the world to join his team were sidelined when the Luxembourger failed to arrive in the country at the deadline to sign in an hour before the official draw at 10:00 on Thursday. Muller was never nominated by the Luxembourg Tennis Federation when nominations had to be submitted to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) ten days ahead of the tie.
However the ITF rules stipulate that the nomination can be changed up at an hour before the official draw. Rumours were rife that Muller who lost early in the ATP Acapulco event and withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open ATP Masters starting next week in Indian Wells, would jet into South Africa as a surprise tactical inclusion in the Luxembourg team for this weekend’s tie. Luxembourg Captain, Johny Goudenbour since arriving in the country Saturday confirmed that Muller was not with the team but that the Luxembourger number one could still arrive: ‘We never know with Gilles when he could possibly make an appearance and by Wednesday he had not arrived but with Gilles you never know. He is a proud Luxembourger and has vast Davis Cup experience and will do his best whenever schedules allow to represent his country.’
South African number one, Tucker Vorster of Pretoria will get South Africa’s weekend campaign under way against Luxembourg at the Irene Country Club tomorrow (Friday). Vorster will play Luxembourr number two, Alex Knaff in the opening rubber. Knaff’s name was drawn first out the hat for the first singles rubber at the draw made at the historic Irene Dairy Farm (started in 1895) and officiated by ITF Referee of Israel.
It will be the first meeting between Vorster and Knaff. This will be the fourth time that 27-year-old Vorster will step onto court in the green and gold. Knaff is aged 18 is one of the brightest prospects to come out of Luxembourg and has enjoyed a success international junior career. The second singles rubber on Friday will see South African number two Lloyd Harris of Cape Town up against Luxembourg number one Ugo Nastasi.
Harris will make his Davis Cup debut on Friday and says: ‘I am very excited and honoured to be playing for South Africa in Davis Cup. I have dreamed of this moment and it’s really a dream come true for me. I have been in great form of late and feel confident that I can take that form into the weekend. I am ready to give of my best.’ The absence of Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen has somewhat weakened the South African line-up but captain Marcos Ondruska and his team remain upbeat about their chances at home this weekend. Ondruska says: ‘We can’t rely on Kevin and Raven due to their schedules. I have a young and enthusiastic team that are totally committed to their country and as new Davis Cup captain I will be focusing on building the future of Davis Cup with these young guns’.
Ondruska named Dean O’Brien and Ruan Roelofse as his doubles team for the 12 noon Saturday rubber. They will play Mike Scheidweiler and Ugo Nastasi. O’Brien says: ‘I see this as an opportunity to nail down the tie in the doubles match on Saturday. Hopefully by the time Ruan and I play the doubles South Africa will be leading so that we can sew up the result before the start of Sunday’s reverse singles.’
O’Brien is South Africa’s third-highest ranked player at 124 on the world doubles ranking after Klaasen and Anderson and has enjoyed a successful run with Roelofse (ranked 130) on the ATP Tour. The playing programme is as follows:
Friday singles (start 10:00 – after the official opening ceremony at 09:45): Tucker Vorster (RSA) vs Alex Knaff (Lux) followed by Lloyd Harris (RSA) vs. Ugo Nastasi (Lux)
Saturday doubles (start 12:00): Dean O’Brien (RSA) and Ruan Roelofse (RSA) vs. Mike Scheidweiler (Lux) and Ugo Nastasi (Lux)
Sunday reverse singles (10:00): Tucker Vorster (RSA) vs. Ugo Nastasi (Lux), Lloyd Harris (RSA) vs. Alex Knaff (Lux)
South Africa: Tucker Vorster, Lloyd Harris, Dean O’Brien and Ruan Roelofse. Captain: Marcos Ondruska
Luxembourg: Ugo Nastasi, Alex Knaff, Mike Scheidweiler and Tom Diederich. Captain: Johny Goudenbour