It’s been more than nine years since Raven Klaasen made his Davis Cup debut for South Africa, and now he’s about to line up in his 17th tie for his country.
The doubles specialist celebrated his 36th birthday on Tuesday with Team SA in Lisbon, where they are getting ready to face Portugal in a Euro Africa Group 1 playoff, which starts on Friday.
While Lloyd Harris will head up the singles challenge – in the absence of Kevin Anderson – with Nik Scholtz, Klaasen is the doubles star who will partner Ruan Roelofse on Saturday.
South Africa have to win to stay in Euro Africa Group 1, after losing 3-2 to Israel in Irene, near Pretoria, in February.
Klaasen recalled his first ever match for South Africa in the Davis Cup in March 2009, and captain Marcus Ondruska praised the veteran for his commitment to the team.
“I clearly remember going into that first tie as one of the nominated four-man team under the captaincy of John-Laffnie de Jager. Rik de Voest, Izak van der Merwe and Jeff Coetzee were my teammates,” Klaasen told Tennis SA on Wednesday.
“After Rik and Izak won the opening days’ singles rubbers, and Rik and Jeff won the doubles the tie had been decided, and Sundays reverse singles were dead rubbers.
“I was called on to play the first reverse singles and although a dead rubber, I was humbled and proud to walk out onto court officially representing my country in Davis Cup, a dream come true.”
Ondruska added: “I am so appreciative of Raven Klaasen always making himself available for his country in Davis Cup.
“Raven is one of the best doubles players in the world, and despite his success on the tour of late and climbing up the world rankings, he always puts Davis Cup as a priority on his schedule.
“He has contributed greatly to the team, and as a senior team player showing leadership and shared his invaluable experience with the new team members.”
#TeamKiaRSA @DavisCup squad at dinner in the Portuguese capital with Captain Marcos Ondruska, team physiotherapist Karen Frye and Federation President Mr. Gavin Crookes #RSAvPOR #DavisCup pic.twitter.com/PE5leguMhD— Tennis South Africa (@TennisSA) October 17, 2018
Klaasen is in line to qualify for the ATP World Doubles Finals with his New Zealand partner Michael Venus, as they are currently ranked seventh, with the top eight pairs going through to the London event.
He has had a thrilling 2018, reaching the Wimbledon doubles final and a Masters 1000 final in Canada.
But the man who hails from Kuils River will hope to maintain South Africa’s status in Euro Africa Group 1 first this weekend.@ashfakmohamed