Johannesburg – A 4-1 Euro-Africa Group Two Davis Cup defeat against Slovenia over the week-end has left South Africa facing imminent relegation to what is effectively the third division of the 130-nation competition - the largest annual sporting team event in the world.
In order to avoid relegation, South Africa will now have to beat what appears a substantially stronger Russian squad next month in another away fixture.
South Africa's plummeting fortunes after having participated in the World Group play-offs in each of the past four years, comes at a time when mounting criticsm is being heaped on number one player Kevin Anderson for his persistent refusal to participate in the Davis Cup.
South Africa last played in the elite Davis Cup World Group in 1998 and have been in the Euro-Africa Group One since 2008.
South African Tennis Association officials on Monday said there was no indication over a change of heart in Anderson's approach to the Davis Cup and team captain John-Laffnie de Jager was already in the process of formulating the squad for the tie which gets underway on October 19 without him.
“We can only do our best,” said De Jager, “and I'm sure that all the players who are selected will do just that.”
But it is an unenviable task the players face after the dismal 4-1 defeat against Slovenia - which might easily have been 5-0 had the East Europeans not conceded the final game on a walkover.
Without Anderson in the South African squad, Russia, with six players among the world's top 100 players in Mikhail Youzhny (20th), Dimitry Tursunov (34th), Nikolay Daveydenko (43rd), Alex Bogomolov jnr (68th), Evgent Donskey (90th) and Andrey Kuznetsov (98th) would appear a racing certainty to avoid the ignominious drop to Euro-Africa Group Two.
And South Africa, with the 162nd ranked Rik de Voest the country's number two ranked player after Anderson, would likely take a crushing backward step in the event in which they are one of only 13 countries to have won the Davis Cup since its inception 113 years ago. – Sapa