SA have tougher tasks ahead
A TOUGH road lies ahead for the SA Euro-Africa Group I Davis Cup team who reached the playoffs for a shot at qualification to the World Group following a 4-1 win over Slovenia at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto over the Easter weekend.
SA’s number one ranked star Izak van der Merwe secured the win for the hosts after defeating his Slovenian counterpart Blaz Kavcic by three sets to none [7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4] on the final day on Sunday in the first rubber of the day.
This came a day after Van der Merwe and doubles partner put SA into the lead after the two nations finished the opening day of the tie level at 1-1 after van der Merwe had defeated Slovenia’s number two, while SA debutant Ruan Roelofse went down gallantly against Kavcic.
SA will now face the tough task of going up against one of Israel, Netherlands or Belgium who respectively defeated Portugal (3-2), Romania (5-0) and Britain (4-1) at the weekend.
Although SA played the tie against Slovenia without their star players Kevin Anderson and Rik de Voest, the 22-year old Roelfse proved to be a revelation at Davis Cup level, and with more exposure to top level tennis could prove to be one of SA’s leading players in future.
Roelofse showed his potential when he took the first set against the highly ranked Kavcic in a tense opening encounter of the tie – taking the first set of the match in 7-6 in exciting fashion – surprising the Slovenian.
However, his lack of experience shone through in the latter stages of the match as he went on to lose the match by three sets to one, although he did so after a gallant effort where he never showed signs of giving up.
On Sunday Roelofse played Nik Razborsek and won his first match in a Davis Cup tie, coming from behind after losing the first set to defeat the Slovenian 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2).
The Cape Town born Roelofse admitted that he felt he was ready for top level tennis, and given the opportunity to play more, he was confident he would rise up the rankings from his current 354 singles ranking to break into the 200 or even 100 rankings.
“I think I played well, but there are areas I can improve. I’m sure if I get a chance to play more tennis I can definitely better my rankings and get better as a player,” said Roelofse.
However, the former SA under-14 and under-16 teams member’s career is threatened to be short-lived due to financial reasons.
Roelofse started playing professionally in 2010 where he improved from a ranking of 1280 to his current 354, and a current career best doubles rank of 301.
He is the fifth highest ranked ATP player in SA and the youngest.
In the past he has had to decline invitations as training patner to the senior Davis Cup team due to finances.
“Currently I am travelling without a coach, fitness trainer or any other tennis support staff. I am at the top of my game and very positive that I will break through into the top 100 shortly. Sadly I will have to end my career as a professional player should I not be able to acquire additional financial support,” explained Roelofse.
With the absence of De Voest, Van der merwe also showed his mettle as a doubles player when he partnered with experienced Raven Klaasen to defeat the Slovenian pair of Kavcic and Grega Zemlja.