Johannesburg – A depleted and under-strength tennis squad was named on Thursday for the Davis Cup Euro-Africa Group One relegation tie against Russia.
Six first choice players, among them Kevin Anderson, were all not available.
Anderson is South Africa's to-ranked player and is ranked 20th in the world. He has however steadfastly refused to play in the Davis Cup for the past two years.
Without him, South Africa is widely considered to have little chance of avoiding a drop to the third-tier Euro-Africa Group Two segment in the tie. It will be played from October 25 to 27 at the Palace of Army Sport in Moscow.
“Playing away from home is always tough, but without our top six players the task gets a great deal tougher,” said Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager.
“Our team is now made up largely of very young and relatively inexperienced players, but it is an opportunity for the guys to play at a higher level and prove to us that they are able to compete.”
Former South African Davis Cup stalwart Abe Segal described the exodus as “a sick joke, if it was not so tragic. It's like throwing lambs to the Russian wolves.
“I sympathise with the untried players who will now be facing a monumental task,” he said, adding this was a situation which would have been unthinkable in South African tennis in the past.
Fritz Wolmarans has made himself unavailable for the tie, while Davis Cup stalwart Rik de Voest is unavailable because of the birth of his first child.
Izak van der Merwe, Jean Anderson and Ruan Roelofse are all injured. Nikala Scholtz cannot make the trip to Moscow because of college commitments in the US.
With little experience to choose from, De Jager had to opt for doubles specialist Raven Klaasen, Dean O'Brien, Tucker Vorster, and Japie de Klerk.
“Klaasen is enjoying his best season on the ATP World Tour as a doubles player and has won six titles this year,” said De Jager.
“His presence is the bright note in the team.”
O'Brien, who is ranked 569th in the world, was chosen for the initial South African squad that played Slovenia last month. The East Europeans won 4-1. He did not make the final four nominated for what would have been his Davis Cup debut.
Vorster and De Klerk will now also be in line to make their Davis Cup debuts against Russia.
Tucker is presently playing on the international futures circuit, and De Klerk is playing US college tennis for Tulsa University.
Russia have five players ranked in the world's top 100 to choose from: Mikhail Youzhny (21); Dmitry Tursunov (40); Nikolay Davydenko (46); Alex Bogomolov jun.(70) and Evgeny Donskoy (90). – Sapa