Lithuania pulled out all the stops when they beat South Africa 3-2 in their Euro/Africa Group II second round Davis Cup tie on Sunday. Not even the enthusiastic crowds at the Irene Country Club could cheer their home side to victory. Lithuania came out on Sunday a better team and proved their worth. South Africa came in 2-1 up after Saturday’s doubles rubber victory by Jean Andersen and Raven Klaasen.
In the opening rubber on Sunday, two number ones took to court and it was Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania who beat homeboy Rik De Voest 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in a 3 hour 30 minute thriller. Berankis showed his class on court and worked De Voest hard for the victory. In May 2013, Berankis was ranked 67 in world tennis but slipped to his present ranking of 143 due to injury. De Voest put up a big fight, in what was his last Davis Cup rubber for his country. Playing in his 20th tie, De Voest announced at the commencement of the tie that this would be his last as the veteran 33-year old will be retiring from the game this year.
“Berankis was the quality player out there today. Walking onto court I really felt emotional knowing that this was my last match for my country. But with the unbelievable support from the crowd, I was able to put my nerves behind me and focus on the task, unfortunately the win wasn’t to be and Ricardas was just too good and solid today,” said De Voest.
De Voest had a big chance in the tenth game of the fourth set when he held three break points. “Things may have been different if I had broken in that tenth game” admitted De Voest. After the Berankis victory, the tie was level at 2-2. South African captain, John-Laffnie De Jager then opted to name Ruan Roelofse for the final rubber instead of the originally nominated Jean Andersen.
Roelofse, aged 24 from Durbanville outside Cape Town turned professional in 2010. Although with just four appearances, he has limited Davis Cup experience. Roelofse possesses a big game which his captain felt could upset the rhythm of the Lithuanians. Unfortunately it did not go well for Roelofse, and although the 1.9 metre tall player built like a rugby prop, put in a gallant effort, he went down to Laurynas Grigelis 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-7 (3) 4-6 in just over three hours.
Roelofse certainly had his chances. He was up a break in the third set at 4-2 and had he capitalized on that advantage, it could have been a different ball game. “Yes I had my chances and when I look back it upsets me I didn’t take them. But overall I felt I played a good game and did myself and South Africa proud,” said Roelofse.
A disappointed De Jager said that all credit should go to Lithuania for coming to South Africa and taming the altitude and putting up a real good show, “The Lithuanian’s must be applauded for their effort. It is never easy playing away from home but they arrived early, worked hard and adapted well by the time the tie started.”
De Jager was full of praise for his team, “My team and squad overall gave their best and put in a real good week. I am proud of them. Now we need to regroup and work hard for 2015.” South Africa remain in the Euro/Africa Group 2 for 2015.
Photo credit: Lucas Janse Van Vuuren